A lengthy debate to recognize the
unions of gay and lesbian couples in Illinois is over with
Wednesday's passage of a civil unions bill in the state Senate.
The bill gives gay couples many of the
rights and obligations of marriage.
The 32-24 vote came a
day after House members approved the measure. The bill,
sponsored by openly gay state Representative Greg Harris, now heads
to the desk of Governor Pat Quinn, who
has previously pledged to sign it into law.
“Today, Illinois took an important
step forward in providing a measure of protections to same-sex
couples and their families – protections of particular importance
in these tough economic times,” Evan Wolfson, executive director of
Freedom to Marry, a group that lobbies for gay marriage, said in a
“With this step in the right
direction, Illinois rejected arguments against fair treatment for gay
people and their loved ones and acknowledged that gay couples and
families exist and have the same hopes and needs as other families,”
Wolfson also urged lawmakers to follow
in the footsteps of other states that have legalized gay marriage
after first approving civil unions.
“Having now laid a good foundation
with civil union, Illinois should move swiftly to finish the job,
ending exclusion from marriage for committed couples seeking the same
responsibilities, same respect, and same rules.”
Senators opposed to the measure mostly
argued that Illinois had bigger fish to fry.
“Rome is burning, folks, and we're
sitting back watching it burning,” Republican Senator John Jones
Senator Chris Lauzen, a Republican from
Aurora, called the bill a “misplaced priority.”
Catholic Church also opposed passage of the bill. In a statement
released last week, the church argued that the “public
understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a
bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at
the core of marriage.”
least three leading Chicago mayoral candidates urged lawmakers to
approve the bill, including lawyer Gery Chico, Rahm Emanuel, the
former White House chief of staff, and former U.S. Senator Carol
Illinois joins New Jersey in offering
civil unions. Lawmakers
in Hawaii are also likely to revisit the issue early next year.