I have been following this law for some time and it, in a nutshell, gives a "Party to a civil union" (I would have used "domestic partner") all of the legal rights of a spouse in Illinois. A non-exclusive list of the big changes:
A "Party to a civil union" gains legal rights to:
- Make medical decisions without a Healthcare POA;
- Have hospital visitation when visitation is limited to family;
- Share nursing home rooms;
- Spousal coverage under employer based health insurance plans;
- Share in state pensions;
- Receive inheritance without estate planning documents;
- File suit over a wrongful death;
- Invoke privilege to not have to testify against a partner.
- receiving a Social Security survivor's benefit;
- filing joint federal tax returns;
- receiving any other federal benefits reserved for a spouse.
A full text version of the act can be found here. Next year should be a stellar year for wedding planners, photographers, caterers, and anyone else in the wedding industry!