Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Civil union bill advances

By Hilary Russell

The fight to legalize civil unions in Illinois won a small victory today when it advanced out of committee by a vote of 4 to 2. Whether it will be called for a vote on the floor, though, remains to be seen.

Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would afford heterosexual and homosexual couples the same legal rights as married couples.

Currently, whereas a spouse would typically have the right to serve as a power of attorney in medical decisions, a person in a same-sex relationship would not.

The bill would not legalize same-sex marriage, which, depending on the state that the couple resides in, affords the same state and federal rights as a heterosexual married couples.
Harris wouldn’t say how many votes he has secured or if he’s close to calling the bill in the next few days, considering the legislature is scheduled to wrap up the spring legislative session.

“We continue to count votes in the House,” Harris said. The problem, he said, is that opponents fear giving rights to same-sex couples would open the door to same-sex marriage. “It appears that people have a concern with the intermingling of religious and civil marriage, but the vast majority of people believe that all couples deserve basic rights.”

While one victory took place here, the California Supreme Court today ruled that civil unions will remain legal, but same-sex marriages remain illegal since voters enacted a ban in November 2008. Fifty-two percent of voters supported Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Proposition 8 materialized with a ballot drive, but opponents of the civil unions claim that it takes more than voter initiative to change the state’s Constitution. Changing the state’s Constitution requires two-thirds of the General Assembly to approve that the question be placed on the ballot in the general election. Then a majority of voters must ratify the change.

For more context about what is happening in other states, see the National Conference of State Legislatures

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