By Jamey Dunn
Same-sex couples in Illinois will soon have the opportunity to seek protections under state law, thanks to a bill Gov. Pat Quinn signed today.
“We believe in civil rights, and we believe in civil unions,” Quinn said in Chicago as he signed the bill. “Many people … all over Illinois, worked so hard for not just in the last few days or weeks or months but literally, for many people, almost their entire lives.”
Starting in June, same-sex and heterosexual couples will be able to enter into civil unions. The unions will provide couples with the same rights that come with marriage under state law, such as shared property rights, hospital visitation and the ability to file joint state tax returns. Illinois will also recognize civil unions — or same-sex marriages, which will be considered civil unions — from other states. Civil unions are not recognized by the federal government.
The General Assembly passed the civil unions bill in December. During debate, opponents argued that giving same-sex couples rights equal to married couples would be morally wrong and a danger to heterosexual marriage. “The reason marriage exists is that sexual intercourse between men and women … produces children. If intercourse did not actually produce vulnerable children who add to the population of a country, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people’s emotional unions,” said Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican.
While many from their party opposed the measure, Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Treasurer Dan Rutherford — who as a state senator cast the lone Republican vote in favor of the bill — were on hand at today’s bill signing.
Chicago Rep. Greg Harris said at the Chicago event that approval of the bill marked Illinois offering “basic equality and fairness” to all couples. But he added that more needs to be done to protect people’s civil rights regardless of sexual orientation, both in Illinois and around the world.
“But as great a victory as we celebrate here today, there’s more work to be done,”
Harris said. “Things can get better. … There are forces, powerful forces, who want to turn back the clock. Who still actively [em]brace intolerance and work to take away rights that generations of Americans have fought to protect and we, we must not let them succeed.”