From Illinois Public Radio - News -

Converting Civil Unions Into Same-Sex Marriages

civil unions

Lakeesha Harris and Janean Watkins, right, wait in line outside the Cook County Office of Vital Records to obtain a civil union license, Wednesday, June 1, 2011, in Chicago. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

The soon-to-be same-sex marriage law in Illinois will not affect civil unions, but gay couples in such a union will have an opportunity to convert their certificate.

The same-sex marriage bill will be signed by the governor later this month and, barring any changes to the start date, will not go into effect until June of next year. However, the prospect of a long wait hasn't stopped gay couples in Illinois from reaching out to state officials. 

Melaney Arnold is a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health and Vital Records. She said their phones have been ringing off the hook.

“We have received numerous calls from people asking about conversion,” Arnold said.

Arnold said it will be allowed. She said in the coming months, her department will be working with county clerks to sort out the details.

The bill does state that in the first year of the new law, gay couples wanting to convert their civil unions can do so without holding a new ceremony or paying a fee. If it happens within that one year window, the marriage would be retroactive to the date of the civil union.

Meanwhile, other observers say while they don't want to discourage gay couples in a civil union from seeking a marriage license, they say they might want to research how the change would affect their financial situation.