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LGBTQ Advocates Celebrate Approval of Two Illinois Marriage Certificate Modernization Bills

Tuesday July 27, 2021

Trans and non-binary people who were married in Illinois will now be able to obtain marriage certificates that reflect their authentic selves thanks to legislation signed today by Gov. JB Pritzker, according to Equality Illinois and Chicago House and Social Service Agency.

Governor Pritzker signed two marriage certificate modernization bills, SB 139 and HB 2590. Both are sponsored by State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz and State Rep. Ann Williams. SB 139 is an initiative of the Cook County Clerk's Office. HB 2590 is an initiative of Equality Illinois and Chicago House and Social Service Agency. They passed the Illinois General Assembly this spring with bipartisan support.

SB 139 requires a county clerk to issue a new marriage certificate when an individual requests a correction to the gendered language on a marriage certificate, such as "bride" or "groom." Additionally, a couple can remove the gendered language altogether, in which case "spouse" would appear on the marriage certificate.

"Thank you to Chicago House, Equality Illinois, Rep. Williams, and Sen. Feigenholtz for their leadership introducing and passing HB 2590 and SB 139 and to Gov. Pritzker for signing them into law," said advocate Kathy Flores.

"My partner Zephyr and I were married on July 18, 2014, at the Chicago Art Institute in Cook County. We were married on a beautiful summer day surrounded by our three adult daughters," Flores continued. "However, you won't find an accurate record of our marriage because the certificate holds the former name of my transgender partner because, since then, my partner has transitioned, including through the legal process of changing his name, driver's license, social security, and birth certificate.

"In searching how to change our Illinois marriage license, we ran into roadblocks, and we learned eventually that there is no way to change a name or gender on a marriage license. As someone who advocates for the LGBTQ community, I found it hard to believe that one can transition and change every single legal document except a marriage license.

"I am a cancer and aneurysm survivor and currently live with Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. I would hate to have my partner have to deal with the pain and trauma of having to prove they are my partner at a time they will be grieving me. And if they die first, I also do not want to be having to sift through red tape all because the name of my partner's legal documents is one thing and the marriage license is another. At a time where we should be treated with dignity and respect, we fear we'll be once again treated with scorn and rejection. That is why we advocated for HB 2590."

With HB 2590, a county clerk must issue a new marriage certificate with the new legal name on it if one of the parties to the marriage shows a legal name change order. This standard in HB 2590 is the same standard for making legal name changes on birth certificates, passports, and driver's licenses.

"We are excited Illinois is moving forward. Thank you to Governor Pritzker for signing these bills and to Sen. Feigenholtz and Rep. Williams for leading on HB 2590 and SB 139," said Elizabeth Ricks, Legal Director of the TransLife Care Program at Chicago House and Social Service Agency, and Myles Brady Davis, Director of Communications at Equality Illinois. "This legislation is a reminder of how state laws and policies must constantly be reviewed and modernized to ensure a person can seamlessly update their identity documents to reflect their authentic self. We thank Kato, Kathy, and other advocates for sharing their stories with us and with legislators and making SB 139 and HB 2590 possible."