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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - Civil Unions in Illinois

It appears that Illinois will become the fifth state in the US to allow civil unions.  The law is awaiting the governor's signature and he has indicated he will sign it. 

 According to the website, Equality Illinois, this Act will ensure all couples (including heterosexual, not just gay/lesbian) in Illinois access to nearly 650 plus rights, benefits, and protections guaranteed to married couples and their families, including:

*Emergency medical decision-making power and hospital visitation rights
*Equal access to state spousal benefits (including workers' compensation, spousal pension coverage, etc.)
*Equal access to domestic relations laws and procedure (including divorce and division of property)
*Equal access to civil actions dependent upon spousal status (wrongful death actions)
*Equal tax treatment at the state and local level
*Spousal testimonial privilege
*Inheritance rights and equal estate tax treatment
•Couples would be able to enter into a civil union by obtaining a license, exchanging vows before a secular or willing religious official, and then registering their unions. All current rules governing annulment, divorce, and property division would apply to partners in a civil union.

It seems to me that the only thing this bill did was create another fee generating license that duplicates the marriage license rules - a duplication done simply to appease those people/religions who define marriage as a union between two people of opposing genders - semantics.  But then, governments are experts in duplication.
It is surprising that Illinois legislators would pass this bill in the wake of the financial situation of this state.  The biggest ramification from this bill will be the inclusion of additional people collecting spousal benefits on state employee pensions.  The state pension program is one major reason Illinois is in such financial dire. The collection of civil union license fees will not absorb the additional expenses on the pension funds.  In addition, private insurance and businesses will have increased costs when mandated to provide coverage for these additional people.
Many of the other issues can be resolved through legal contracts such as wills, powers of attorney, estate planning, and other legal documents, which many married couples also currently utilize. Equal treatment for income tax issues is a moot point since Illinois has the same flat tax rate and exemption amount applied to both single and married persons. Spousal testimony privilege should be revoked.
What should have been done is to get rid of all spousal benefits to married couples, eliminate marriage license requirements, and treat all individuals in the state equally under the laws.


Going Like Sixty said...

Thanks for explaining this. So basically it's more entitlement for state employees. Reeediculous. But typical.

AND what's the kerfuffle over the idea of changing Soc. Sec. by two years in the next 65 years! They changed it quicker than that not long ago seemingly without a peep.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

gls: Social security could also be in better financial shape if the government wasn't paying out millions of dollars in benefits to people who never paid into the system. People who don't contribute to a system should not get benefits- spouse or not.

So now in Illinois, because of the civil union law, the state pension fund will be paying benefits to more individuals who never paid into that system also. So will health insurers and private pension funds.

As a result, in order to pay for these extra benefits, Illinois taxpayers will be paying more in taxes and in increased prices from private businesses and insurers.

Crockhead said...

Oh, Catch. I see I'm going to have to knock some sense into your libertarian (with a small l) head. The state pension program is not a reason Illinois is in such financial dire. Employees have been paying into the system their share, but the state hasn't been paying into the pension system the employer's share because of the state's financial dire. You are confusing cause and effect. And who are these people who are getting millions of dollars of benefits from social security who never paid into the system? To the contrary, there are millions of people who pay into the system who never get any money out because they die too young to receive benefits. I doubt that there will be any great cost to the state for adding spousal benefits. It is all actuarial, just like any private insurance plan. If you want spousal coverage you have to pay for it either with increased premiums or decreased benefits. So stop worrying. The world is not going to change very much because of civil unions in Illinois.

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