SPRINGFIELD — Equality Illinois applauds passage today of legislation ensuring pension fairness for LGBT individuals who retired from public employment prior to the civil unions law and marriage equality law. We now call upon Gov. Bruce Rauner to expeditiously sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.
Sponsored by Rep. Sam Yingling and Sen. Daniel Biss, House Bill 6021 allows retired public employees in the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, State Universities Retirement System or Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and who are in a same-sex civil union or marriage to designate survivor benefits for their spouse. Equality Illinois advocated for the bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Today, HB 6021 passed the Senate by a vote of 49-3, and the Illinois House of Representatives approved it on April 13 on a vote of 102-4.
“Prior to the enactment of civil unions and marriage equality in Illinois, members of these public pension systems who were in same-sex relationships were not able to designate their partner for survivor benefits because the state did not legally recognize them as couples,” said Mike Ziri, director of public policy for Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans.
“We are thrilled that large bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate saw the fairness of allowing these retirees to buy back into the retirement plans so that they can protect their spouses,” Ziri said.
Under the old retirement law, when employees could not designate a spouse they had the irrevocable option to receive a refund of their survivor credits. HB 6021 allows the retiree to re-establish survivor benefits by paying back the total amount of the refund received for survivor credits plus interest.
The legislation applies to those members of the pension systems who retired prior to June 1, 2011 (effective date of the civil unions law), received the refund of their survivor credits and are in a civil union or same-sex marriage. Starting five months after the bill becomes law, qualifying annuitants will have a period of one year to re-establish survivor benefits
In addition to Equality Illinois, the legislation is supported by the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, State Universities Annuitants Association, Illinois Retired Teachers Association, Service Employees International Union Local 73 and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31. The Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund took no position on the legislation.