The Freedom to Marry in Illinois

Winning Marriage: June 1, 2014

Same-sex couples won the freedom to marry in Illinois on November 20, 2013 after Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed marriage into law after it was approved by the IL House on November 5 and the IL Senate on February 14. Same-sex couples began marrying in some counties as early as February, 2014, and the law officially went into effect on June 1, 2014.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • 1996: The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is amended to restrict marriage to different-sex couples. Later attempts to pass an anti-marriage constitutional amendment repeatedly fail.
  • 1996-2010: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Illinois take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • January 12, 2011: Gov. Pat Quinn signs into law a bill (previously passed by the Illinois Legislature) allowing same-sex couples to join together in civil union. The law takes effect on June 1, 2011, affording same-sex couples some of the protections and responsibilities – but none of the dignity and respect – of marriage. 
  • May 30, 2012: Lambda Legal files a new legal case in state court seeking the freedom to marry, on behalf of dozens of same-sex couples. Several other cases are filed in the following years, building momentum for marriage in Illinois. Read the initial complaint.
  • December 20, 2012: Illinois Unites for Marriage, the coalition to win the freedom to marry in Illinois, is formed.
  • January 9, 2013: Legislators in Illinois, in a move championed by Illinois Unites for Marriage, introduce a bill to the Senate to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. A previous bill in 2012 stalled, despite vocal support from Gov. Quinn and other critical leaders, including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.
  • February 2013: Polling in Illinois tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • November 20, 2013: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signs the freedom to marry in Illinois into law following a February 2013 house vote and a later, stalled Senate vote in November 2013. The law is set to take effect on June 1, 2014.
  • February 21, 2014: A federal judge rules in Lambda Legal’s case Lee v. Orr, declaring that Cook County must issue marriage licenses immediately, several months before the marriage bill takes effect. Spurred by the order, several other counties begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Read the ruling.
  • June 1, 2014: The freedom to marry comes to the rest of Illinois once and for all, and same-sex couples begin applying for marriage licenses across the state.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage:

  • Illinois Unites for Marriage was the statewide coalition working to pass the freedom to marry in the IL state legislature.
  • Equality Illinois is the central statewide organization working to secure, protect and defend equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Illinois.
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution, and state and federal human rights laws.
  • Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. Lambda Legal served as counsel in many of the marriage legal cases in Illinois.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.