While gay-rights activist Rick Garcia said Senate Bill 1716 has enough votes among state lawmakers to get passed, according to the Alton Telegraph, the sponsor of the bill that would allow civil unions said he's not so sure.
Civil unions would give same-sex partners the exact same rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, according to reporters. While that sounds a lot like marriage, a Chicago family law attorney could better explain how the two compare.
HB 1716 was introduced by Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, one of two openly gay members of the state legislature. While he expressed interest in moving this piece of legislation as quickly as possible, he said political realities may stall it:
"Every member of the General Assembly has two priorities on their mind right now: jobs and the economy, and the terrible state the budget is in."
Only New Jersey allows civil unions, while Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia extend marriage to same-sex couples. A form of domestic partnership providing limited spousal rights to same-sex couples is available in Oregon, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Nevada, Wisconsin and California.
Rick Garcia, of Equality Illinois, said the law would fix certain vague situations often faced by gay and lesbian couples, including visits with hospitalized partners:
"We're nowhere near equal marriage rights, but a civil union bill would pass. This issue is not a big deal."
Some conservative activists, meanwhile, say they're prepared for a fight. David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, which opposes marriage equality, said he thinks it would be a stepping stone to marriage:
"It's counterfeit marriage by another name."
But given the other pressing issues in Springfield, it may remain shelved for a while.