SPRINGFIELD — The new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois has state prison officials studying whether inmates will be allowed to exchange vows behind bars.

Days after Gov. Pat Quinn made Illinois the 16th state to allow gays to marry one another during a bill-signing event in Chicago, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections said a policy for prisoners had not yet been developed.

But, he said there would be a plan on the books by the time the law becomes official June 1.

“The Illinois Department of Corrections will be prepared to implement a policy regarding this law when it goes into effect,” Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer said.

Illinois isn’t the first state to grapple with the issue.

In September, the California prison system ruled that inmates will be permitted to marry same-sex partners who are not incarcerated.

The policy in California bars marriages between two inmates because of “security concerns.”

Illinois already has a rule on the books prohibiting the marriage of two imprisoned persons.

But under the state’s current rules, inmates can get married to nonprisoners. Arrangements for such marriages are at the discretion of each prison warden.

In Minnesota, where gay marriage also is legal, marriages between prison inmates are banned, but questions have arisen in facilities holding sex offenders.

Minnesota Public Radio News reported in September that it remains unclear how the state will handle people who have served their prison sentences but remain in custody because they are sex offenders deemed too dangerous to be released into society.

According to the report, two men housed in a facility for sex offenders contacted local officials for a license, but the state Department of Human Services denied their transportation request to apply in person, as required.

Illinois has a secure facility for sex offenders in Rushville. The “treatment and detention facility,” or TDF, currently has no ban on marriage among residents.

But, Illinois Department of Human Services spokesman Tom Green said the matter is being studied with an eye on having a policy in place by June 1.

“We’ve reviewed some of the policies that TDFs use in other states,” Green said.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

Springfield Bureau Chief for the Herald & Review

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