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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state's marriage equality bill into law on Wednesday, making Illinois the 16th state to legalize gay marriage.
Quinn signed the bill before a packed crowd at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum, signing the historic legislation on the very same desk Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address, Chicago's WMAQ-TV reports.
How does Illinois' passage of same-sex marriage affect the national picture of marriage equality?
With Hawaii just barely edging out the Land of Lincoln to becoming the 15th state to legalize gay marriage, Illinois is the second state in November alone to have changed its marriage laws.
Speakers at the signing also recognized Wednesday as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, recognizing the day as truly momentous for present change as well as change yet to come.
Change in the field of marriage equality has been swift in the past year, with eight states (California, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Hawaii) recognizing gay marriage by either new laws or court decisions.
With Gov. Quinn's signing, there are now 16 states and the District of Columbia which support same-sex marriage, a full one-third of the nation.
WMAQ reports that Illinois' new law takes effect on June 1, 2014, allowing gay couples to obtain marriage licenses in about seven months' time. Illinois' Office of Tourism has gotten into the spirit of same-sex matrimony by advertising the state's LGBT pride and various gay-friendly venues.
And why not? According to a UCLA Williams Institute study, gay marriage in Illinois should generate $103 million in tourist dollars for the Land of Lincoln over the next three years.
Illinois took a tentative step toward granting same-sex couples marriage-like rights in 2011 by recognizing civil unions, and those unions aren't undone by this new law. According to Slate, the Illinois law will allow those already in civil unions to convert to marriages for free, but it won't require civil unions to become marriages.
This system is in contrast to states like Delaware, which legislated that all civil unions will automatically become marriages after a year.
For now, it appears Illinois couples, gay or straight, will be able to choose between civil unions and marriages, with the latter enjoying the benefits and responsibilities of federal recognition.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.