[JURIST] Illinois on Wednesday became the sixteenth US state to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] when Governor Pat Quinn [official website] signed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (Act) [text, PDF]. Although the Act allows same-sex couples to marry, it allows religious organizations to refuse to celebrate or solemnize marriages if they so choose. The Act guarantees equal access to status, benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities for all married couples and their families. The bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives [JURIST report] earlier this month and passed the state senate [JURIST report] in February. The Act will go into effect on June 1, 2014. Quinn made marriage equality a priority this year and stated [news release], "This new law is an epic victory for equal rights in America. Illinois is moving forward. We are a model for our country. If the Land of Lincoln can achieve marriage equality, so can every other state in the nation." In 2011 Quinn signed into law civil union legislation, which led to more than 6,000 couples entering civil unions. The Act allows for the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage.
Earlier this month Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie [official website] signed into law [JURIST report] a bill legalizing same-sex marriage [text, PDF]. Also this month a federal judge in Ohio ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages on Ohio death certificates could continue. Also last week a Colorado same-sex couple filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking a marriage license. In October a Missouri court denied [JURIST report] a same-sex partner survivor benefits. Also in October JURIST Guest Columnist Theodore Seto argued the fallout from the US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] decision is only beginning to show the role state governments will have [JURIST op-ed] in state constitutional modification, in addition to the possibility that a same-sex marriage case will reach the US Supreme Court in the future. In September a Kentucky judge issued a ruling in the opposite direction, holding that partners in a same-sex couple must testify against one another [JURIST report] because same-sex partners are not protected by the husband-wife privilege under state law.