Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign landmark state legislation passed yesterday extending the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without actually calling it "marriage," the Chicago Tribune reported. The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act passed the House 61 to 52 and cleared the Senate by a vote of 32 to 24.
Some of the rights that would be extended to committed same-sex couples that enter into civil unions include the legal rights of probate matters and the ability to visit one's partner in the hospital (when only family members are allowed).
Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, referenced Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement while urging colleagues to join her in voting for the legislation:
"This is a legacy vote. It makes a statement about the justice for which we stand."
Once the law is enacted, same-sex couples may apply for civil unions similarly to how heterosexual couples apply for marriage licenses. Talk to an Illinois family law attorney sympathetic to the plight of gay couples to learn more about the pending law.
Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, was not so enthusiastic and asked, "Why civil unions now?" at a time of high unemployment and a massive state debt:
"We are the incompetence laughing stock of government mismanagement and misplaced priorities, and our one-party [Democratic] leadership spends our time on homosexual civil unions."
But it's not a completely partisan issue. Sen. Dan Rutherford, elected to the office of state treasure in the November general election, is the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill. He simply said he believed it was "the right thing to do."
Gov. Pat Quinn had promised to sign the bill during his campaign and is expected to do so.
Chicago family law attorneys are better qualified to discuss exactly which rights the new bill will grant to gay couples who enter into civil unions.