Old Law Creating Confusion for Same Sex Marriage Licenses

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

ILLINOIS -- Same sex marriage has been legal for a month now in Illinois. However, an old law is causing confusion for some out-of-state couples. The situation leaves county clerks in a tough spot.

A section of the Illinois law states a marriage license is void if that couple is barred from marrying in the state where they live. It was designed to prevent people who are close family or underage from crossing state borders to wed. 
 
Jackson County was one of the first to issue same sex marriage licenses in southern Illinois. Every week they take out-of-state calls.
 
"Most of the ones we get are from Kentucky," said Jackson County Clerk Larry Reinhardt. "It's just the local or the closest border to us."
 
Kentucky doesn't currently allow same sex couples to marry. Reinhardt has had to turn many couples away.
 
"Some are definitely not happy," said Reinhardt. 
 
His office is keeping tabs as the laws across the country are challenged or changed.
 
"It's an ongoing issue and sort of a moving playing field so to speak," said Reinhardt. 
 
A section of the Illinois license asks couples to sign their names verifying the union would be valid in their home jurisdiction.
 
"If same sex marriage is not legal in that person's state, then they're perjuring themselves by signing this affidavit," said Reinhardt. 
 
Different counties are finding their own way to handle the confusing statute. Some give out the licenses as long a couple puts their signatures on the legal paperwork.
 
"I just think there's a lot of things that might happen down the way that we might not have thought of yet," said Johnson County Clerk Robin Harper-Whitehead. 
 
So far, Harper-Whitehead hasn't found an affidavit she's confident enough to use.
 
"What I foresee is problems that if they got divorced, if they did file an income tax return," said Harper-Whitehead. 
 
They're the same complications that her office faced when civil unions were first allowed. For now, she's updating her list of accepted states and waiting for Illinois to figure it out.
 
"A lot of times our laws come and then that drifting thing," said Harper-Whitehead. "They need to clean it up a little bit."    
 
The lawmaker who sponsored same sex marriage in Illinois would like to see the problem fixed. It will likely have to wait until the legislature's full session next year.
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