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Illinois House of Representatives passes civil union bill

Bryan Alaspa's picture

The Illinois House of Representatives debated for only an hour before passing the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act on Tuesday night. The act would give gay couples the right to have civil unions in the state and all of the legal protections of a married couple who was not gay.

The act is believed to have enough support in the state Senate to pass. Also supporting the bill is Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. This despite severe opposition to it, mostly from religious groups such as the Catholic church.

Recognition of gay couples

Although the civil unions would, technically, not be the same as a marriage, the bill in question would provide legal recognition for gay couples. It would give them the same rights and benefits that are already automatically made available to married couples. This would include the right to visit a sick partner in the hospital and make decisions in regards to their medical care.

The Illinois Constitution still states that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Also, the civil unions might not be recognized or legal on other states outside of Illinois.

The debate over the bill was intense with emotions running high on both sides, according to local media reports in the Chicago area. Those in favor of the bill had numerous examples of gay couples who were unable to even see one another when one partner fell ill. Most importantly the story of Rep. Larry McKeon, Illinois’ first openly gay lawmaker, was denied the right to visit his long time partner until he had paperwork produced saying he had the right to visit him. By the time he was able to get legal paperwork stating that, his partner had died.

Some gay rights groups have criticized the bill as well, saying it doesn’t go far enough. Some have voiced disappointment that the state has not gone all the way to legalize marriage between gay couples. However, even those groups who are disappointed say they hope that the civil union’s bill will lay the foundation for an eventual legalization of gay marriage.

The opposition was surprisingly light in the House. Although those who voiced opposition were vehement and vocal, the bill passed with relative ease.

The next step will be for the bill to come before the Illinois State Senate. The bill will then need to be signed into law by the go

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