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Illinois Repeals Old Laws to Protect Marriage Equality

Published Wednesday, Jul. 19th, 2023

Image: Bran Sodre / Unsplash

Illinois lawmakers recently increased state-level protections for interracial and same-sex marriage by amending the Illinios Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.


In June, Gov. Pritzker signed a bill (HB 1591) that repeals three outdated laws that were initially written to prevent interracial couples from marrying in Illinois, and were later used to prevent same-sex couples from marrying there. 


The amendments send a clear message of support for marriage equality in the state, and help to ensure that Illinois remains a safe haven for interracial couples and same-sex couples living there and in nearby states, should federal protections for marriage equality change in the future. 


The amendments go into effect next year on Jan 1, 2024.


About the repealed laws: Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act


The three statutes in question – §750 5/217; §750 5/218; and §750 5/219 – have been on the books since the early 1900s, and prohibited any couple from marrying in Illinois if their marriage would be considered illegal in their home state. They were introduced as a roundabout way of discouraging interracial marriage in Illinois, without passing an explicit ban against it. 


At the time, several states had anti-miscegenation laws in place which made it illegal for interracial couples to marry, including Iowa on Illinois’s western border, and nearby Michigan, Kansas, and Ohio. To get around these bans, interracial couples who wanted to get married would travel to Illinois to apply for their marriage license, and then head home as newlyweds. 


Lawmakers in Illinois who were against interracial marriage didn’t like this, and so they passed 3 laws to prevent it. 


Related: Perez v. Sharp: The 1948 Win for Interracial Marriage that Changed Everything


These statutes refer directly to ‘intermarrying’ (as interracial marriage was often called), and required out-of-state couples to sign affidavits stating that they were legally allowed to marry in their home states. They also made it a misdemeanor for a state official to issue a marriage license to a prohibited couple, or for a wedding officiant to perform their marriage ceremony. 


Over time, these laws were also used to prevent same-sex couples from traveling to Illinois to marry. 


The statutes remained a barrier to true marriage equality in the state until Loving v Virginia and Obergefell v Hodges guaranteed the marriage rights of interracial and same-sex couples at the federal level in 1967 and 2015, respectively.


(Note: Same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois in 2013, but many states still had bans in place until 2015, which meant that many out-of-state couples could still not marry in Illinois.)


Related: When was same-sex marriage legalized in the U.S.? Is it legal in all 50 states?



Beautiful photo of Chicago taken from above, with the water and sky in the background

Photo: Pedro Lastra / Unsplash


Why now? 


Why are these outdated laws finally being repealed? 


Although the statutes have been defunct for several years, they would become active law again if the Supreme Court overturned their rulings in Loving v Virginia or Obergefell v Hodges – as would any marriage bans still on the books in other states (and there are many). 


The reversal of federal protections for marriage equality might have been impossible to imagine a few years ago. But advocates are expressing increasing concern that it could happen, citing the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ and White supremacist sentiments around the country, and the overturn of Roe v Wade in 2022 by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. 


Luckily, Illinois is acting now. By removing these outdated laws from the books, lawmakers ensure that the state remains a safe haven for interracial and same-sex couples living there and in nearby states, no matter what happens at the federal level. 


Related: The Threat to Same-Sex Marriage in a Post-Roe World


Read the full text of the 3 repealed laws: 


§ 750 5/217 Marriage By Non Residents When Void.

No marriage shall be contracted in this state by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another state or jurisdiction if such marriage would be void if contracted in such other state or jurisdiction and every marriage celebrated in this state in violation of this provision shall be null and void. (REPEALED)


§ 750 5/218 Duty Of Officer Issuing License.

Before issuing a license to marry a person who resides and intends to continue to reside in another state, the officer having authority to issue the license shall satisfy himself by requiring affidavits or otherwise that such person is not prohibited from intermarrying by the laws of the jurisdiction where he or she resides. (REPEALED)


§ 750 5/219 Offenses.


Any official issuing a license with knowledge that the parties are thus prohibited from marrying and any person authorized to solemnize marriage who shall knowingly solemnize such a marriage shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. (REPEALED)




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Conviértete en un Oficiante de Bodas en Illinois

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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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