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Illinois to Allow Gender-Neutral Identifiers and Gender Changes on Marriage Certificates

Cook County applauds efforts to make vital documents more inclusive

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- In an effort to modernize marriage certificates in Illinois, Senator Sara Feigenholtz and Representative Ann Williams have passed “The Marriage Certificate Modernization Act” through the Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives.

The legislation is a concerted effort between Cook County and advocacy organizations like Equality Illinois and Chicago House to make Illinois the second state in the nation to allow couples to update current marriage certificates with non-gendered language.

“Marriage certificates that limit couples to choices like ‘bride and groom’ do not reflect what marriage looks like in Illinois today,” remarked Feigenholtz. “This bill is a giant step forward for the transgender community who have all-too-often carried the burden caused by archaic laws. Today, we commit to righting the wrongs of the past and provide a path for our residents to live a life that truly reflects how they identify.”

Married couples will now be able to request a marriage certificate from their County Clerk without any gender identifying language. This includes changing terms like “bride” and “groom” to gender neutral alternatives such as “spouse.”

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

While the legislation is applicable to all Illinoisans, it was inspired after conversations with members of the transgender community who shared their inability to access important resources like healthcare because their marriage certificate did not align with their other legal documents.

“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.”

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

“Now that we have Marriage Equality in Illinois, those who marry in Cook County are able to choose how they identify on that special day,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “But documents from the past can cause painful reminders of past stigmatization, or present bureaucratic issues in other jurisdictions. With the passage of SB139, Cook County is proud to stand with the rest of Illinois as we align vital records with the self-affirming actions of our residents. Today, we take another step toward the more equitable world for which we all seek.”

Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough, who issues all Vital Records in Chicago and suburban Cook County, strongly supported the legislation and hailed its passage as a welcome modernization.

“I am proud to be part of this effort to ensure that marriage certificates from the past can be aligned to recognize the courageous choices that people make today,” Yarbrough said. “As the Cook County Clerk, it’s very important to me that we continue to find ways to make government more responsive and adaptable, while also protecting privacy.”

Once signed into law, the legislation will take effect January 1, 2022.

This is news from the Office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.


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