Civil Union Policy Change

Article excerpt

Byline: Russell Lissau By Russell Lissau

A complaint from an out-of-state couple who recently were denied a civil-union license has prompted a policy change in the Lake County clerk's office.

Couples who don't live in Illinois but want a Lake County civil-union license now can get one, if they swear they live in a state that doesn't specifically prohibit civil unions.

Such affidavits already were in use in DuPage County, officials there said.

The affidavits were added to the Lake County application process Tuesday, five days after Indiana residents Gina Osting-Riddle and Andrea Riddle were denied a license by the clerk's office in Waukegan.

The women had traveled to Lake County for a civil union because Osting-Riddle's father lives there and is ill.

They were turned away, however, because Indiana does not legally recognize civil unions, County Clerk Willard Helander said. That stance was based on previous legal advice from the Lake County state's attorney's office, she said.

Indiana law does not specifically prohibit civil unions, however.

"It all comes down to how you define 'prohibit,'" Helander said.

Randy Hannig, public policy director for the gay rights group Equality Illinois, called the stance "a very strict interpretation" of the law.

Illinois started issuing civil licenses to gay, lesbian and straight couples in June 2011. The Lake County clerk's office has issued 143 civil union licenses since then, Helander said.

Under the Illinois law, couples who live in other states are allowed to get civil union licenses and hold ceremonies here only after the county clerk is "satisfied" the applicants are not prohibited from entering into such a relationship in their home state.

A clerk can accomplish this by requiring the applicants to sign affidavits, the law states.

That's good enough for Helander.

"We are going to put the affidavit into our software," Helander said. "We don't circumvent state law."

Helander believes Riddle and Osting-Riddle were the first couple living in a state that doesn't recognize civil unions to apply for a license in Lake County.

After being rejected in Lake County, the couple got a Cook County license and had a ceremony Saturday at an Arlington Heights hotel, said their officiant, the Rev. …