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General Assembly passes marriage license modernization bill

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The Illinois General Assembly has passed a bill that would allow people to update and use a gender-neutral marker on marriage licenses in the state.

“Gendered language on marriage certificates is an outdated requirement,” said State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), one of the Senate sponsors. “Forcing someone to choose between binary terms like bride and groom may not be relevant for all couples. This new practice will reflect the full flexibility of marriage under the law.”

Senate Bill 139 allows married couples to request a new marriage certificate from the county clerk free of any gender identifying language. This includes changing terms like “bride” and “groom” to gender-neutral alternatives such as “spouse.”

“A marriage certificate is the legal embodiment of one the most significant days of a person’s life, and the language used on it should reflect their true selves,” Feigenholtz said.

“This is a small change, but it will have a big impact on many Illinois families, particularly in the transgender community” said State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), a House sponsor. “Thank you to Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough and Senator Sara Feigenholtz for your partnership on this important issue.”

“Being able to update a marriage certificate to have the correct information is extremely important for transgender people,” said Kato Lindstrom, a community advocate. “We can now use this document without having to show supporting documentation to prove our marriage is valid. It is equally important that we are no longer forced to out ourselves in situations where being transgender is completely irrelevant.”

“The passing of SB 139 is fantastic news,” said Otis “O.J.” Duncan, board chair of Carbondale’s Rainbow Café LGBTQ Center. “Gendered language is unnecessary on any documents, and only serves to alienate people who use neutral pronouns, or do not fit into a neat gender binary.”

Marriage equality has been legally recognized in Illinois since June 1, 2014 with the passing of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

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