Illinois Senate Passes Civil Union Bill; Governor Has Promised to Sign

An historic day in the Land of Lincoln!

Illinois Following passage in the House yesterday, the Illinois Senate has passed the civil union bill in a 32-24-1 vote. 

From Lambda Legal:

"The Illinois General Assembly passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, establishing legal protections for same-sex couples across the state.

"Same-sex couples in Illinois, many together for decades, will finally have the legal protections to take care of each other and their children," said Jim Bennett, Regional Director of Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. "Same-sex couples and their families faced a range of barriers to things that other couples take for granted, including spousal health benefits and hospital visitation – the goal of this law is to correct those problems. While all couples deserve the right to marry, all of us in the Land of Lincoln can be proud of this important step forward."

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, first introduced by Representative Greg Harris in March 2007, and in the Illinois Senate by Senator David Koehler, passed 61-52 in the House on Tuesday and 32-24 in the Senate today. The new law includes provisions for hospital visitation and healthcare decision making.

Lambda Legal's staff provided extensive legal analysis and drafting assistance for the Act approved today, as well as public education and legislative advocacy pressing for its passage.

Chicago Pride has a good wrap-up of the vote, adding this:

"State Sen. and Rev. James Meeks (D-Chicago), who is running for Chicago Mayor, was the only Democrat to cross party lines to vote against the bill. State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) is the only senator who voted present. 'I believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and that was the impetus behind my vote,' Meeks told reporters after the vote. The prominent south side minister maintains a contentious relationship with Chicago's LGBT community over his anti-gay stance."

Meeks, you may recall, said in September that he would address gay rights as mayor if he got bored enough.

Governor Pat Quinn has promised to sign the bill.


  1. JusticeontheRocks says

    A very positive step. Congratulations to the tens of thousands of Illini whose lives just got better.

    Hopefully the next step, full civil marriage, will not be far off.

  2. The Ghost of Harry Hay says

    Civil unions are so 1990s. This is not a step forward so much as a step sideways. LGBT people will remain unequal so long as we cheer crumbs as victories. If the US government can spend trillions of dollars on war and bailouts, then there’s no reason they should be stopping equal rights for LGBT people. The slave never thanks the slave master for giving him only three lashes instead of four.

  3. Terry says

    I’m sorry, but I’m delighted today. I’ve been reading the “well, congratulations on enacting Jim Crow laws” crap online. Illinois had nothing. Zero, zip. And now we’ve taken a step towards marriage. That’s how Vermont and New Hampshire got marriage. No one is suggesting that we permanently settle for civil unions.

  4. Damen says

    Do not rain on anyone’s parade today. There are plenty of older couples in Chicago tonight who never thought even this day would come, and now have basic medical and inheritance protections.

    It may be so 1990s, but IL is only the 6th state to move forward with civil unions. Theres lots of work to do. Six out of Fifty.

    Congratulations to all in Illinois today. The face of LGBT rights in the Midwest with Iowa and Illinois has now changed dramatically.

  5. Damen says

    Its also nice to see progress like this enacted legislatively. While we all know our victories in the courts are legitimate, this issue would have been a non starter in Illinois just 5-6 years ago. Progress is rapidly moving.

  6. says

    Civil unions are so 2000, actually. The first CUs in VT happened only 10 years ago. So, while it is a step sideways in some respects, it is a very important step sideways. (Count me among those who believe it’s one more step forward.) First of all, real couples get real benefits from CU legislation. This is not an abstract law. Secondly, one of the biggest pushes towards full marriage equality–which is the goal–has been CU legislation because people learn that the sky doesn’t fall when gay unions receive legal recognition and because it becomes apparent to this growing percentage of supporters that CUs are not equal to marriage. VT (and other states) has marriage today because it had CUs yesterday.

    So, Congratulations to all those who made it happen in Illinois; stand by those legislators who supported you, because they too will be crucial for the next step–full marriage equality.

  7. TANK says

    What’s the use of being grateful for these overdue scraps? They don’t care either way, and moreso, only did this for themselves…nothing to do with you at all, really. Ugh, these state by state patchwork is repulsive, and highlights apartheid. Being grateful never achieved anything. Full marriage equality is the only meaningful step forward, as everything else is less in terms of tangible rights and benefits.

  8. HawaiiBill says

    Well said Ernie…and congratulations to Illinois for producing results through hard work.

    Many families in Illinois just got more protection than they had yesterday. Those that would prefer to wait for the full benefits of marriage are welcome to do so and I fully support the effort, but that doesn’t help my kids or husband TODAY if something happens to me. Civil Unions do and I look forward to Hawaii being next.

    Taking incremental steps is one of multiple strategies that create change…despite what individuals have to say when they piss on any parade they are not leading.

  9. ChicagoMike says

    Congrats and thanks to the Illinois General Assembly and particularly Rep Greg Harris. While this does not achieve full equality, which is our collective and rightful goal, need I remind the naysayers on this, World Aids Day, that gay men in Illinois are still dying. Yes, this bill matters…

  10. adam says

    I always wonder if the guys with the negative comments are out there fighting for our rights or just sitting at home blessing us with their bitchy comments from on high. our fight has been arduous and this is a welcome day of sunlight. we always know where we stand and today it’s in a better place. thanks to the countless ladies and gentlemen who didn’t sit at home and bitch, but got up and out to help us move forward!

  11. Brian says

    Pop quiz: Which will let you to file a joint federal tax return or sponsor your non-citizen partner for immigration purposes, a marriage license from Iowa or a civil union from Illinois?

    Answer: Neither.

    While DOMA is still in place the difference between marriages and civil unions are nonexistent. The “marriage or nothing” crew needs to acknowledge this reality.

  12. TANK says

    The marriage and anything else is less crew generally oppose DOMA, and the state by state patchwork that continues apartheid. But continue to be satisfied, you useful idiots.

  13. says

    “While DOMA is still in place the difference between marriages and civil unions are nonexistent. The ‘marriage or nothing’ crew needs to acknowledge this reality.”

    Court cases against DOMA are stronger if couples are married rather than CU’d. States that have fully equal marriage laws (within the state), including the name “marriage,” can more easily argue that DOMA prevents states from treating all married couples equally. That was one successful argument for marriage equality in VT. That said, CUs, as several of us have pointed out, provide immediate benefits and help pave the way towards marriage equality at the state and, eventually, federal level. It’s a long winding road, but every step forward makes it easier.

  14. Hue-Man says

    Tactically this is a good news story. It sends a message to GOTP and Dem-Lite Senators that they need to support DADT. It’s a win after a series of losses – Iowa Supreme Court recall being the worst. It recognizes rights that LGBT couples have which have not been acknowledged. And it’s in the face of those ugly hate groups who lie with impunity. It may not be the Mega-Lottery but it’s certainly more than a half a loaf.

  15. BobN says

    “I always wonder if the guys with the negative comments are out there fighting for our rights or just sitting at home blessing us with their bitchy comments from on high.”

    They’re like those guys in war movies, you know, after the platoon has captured a small hill in ruthless fighting. Losing men left and right for days, somehow surviving relentless enemy bombardment, and against all odds, they finally secure a position. Then one guy stands up and starts bitching how it means nothing cuz they shoulda/coulda/woulda been able to capture that mountain over there if anybody really cared. All the other guys, some wounded, all exhausted and just freakin grateful to be alive, look back and forth at each other and hang their heads.

    Then, with no warning, acting in coordinated movement like a single being, they all raise their rifles and blow the whiny asshole away.

  16. BobN says

    “Pop quiz: Which will let you to file a joint federal tax return or sponsor your non-citizen partner for immigration purposes, a marriage license from Iowa or a civil union from Illinois?

    Answer: Neither. ”

    Uh… not so fast. You can’t file a joint return but you’re expected to file separately but considering your joint income.

    At least, that’s what the IRS said in an advice letter earlier this year. Couples should consult their tax attorneys…

  17. Randy says

    Why is it every little step of progress for gay people has to come with a sickening name like “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act” (because, you know, equality is a threat to religious freedoms).

    Did this happen in the 1950s? Was there a “White Vote Protection and Citizen Intent-Marking Act” or a “States Rights and Fair Indoor-Living Buildings Act”?

  18. wimsy says

    Whether its “so ’80s” or “so 90s,” I’m with those who congratulate Illini — who had nothing — for progressing to civil unions. Some states are more backward than others — it took until the year 2000 for Alabama to repeal its law against inter-racial marriages, even though the SCOTUS nullified such laws in 1967. For Illini in their middle-age, a civil union while you’re still breathing is better than a marriage law after you’re dead.

  19. says

    The complainers have the standard far left pathology. They need to complain, so nothing is ever good enough. Worse, they actually sabotaqe our movement with over reach and bad strategy, so they’ll also have failures to complain about. I’ve watched them do it for thirty years, and it’s starting to make my skin crawl.
    That said, this victory is sweet, coming from the legislature and from a rural state.
    It’s too bad the complainers have controlled our strategy for so long. We might have exploited the polls showing that a majority support CUs. We might have had many easy victories in the states, and been able to put our real weight into enda.
    That said, this news is fabu.

  20. says

    “Illinois Civil Unions Bill Passes Senate, Gov. Quinn Will Sign Into Law
    Greg Harris
    Less than 24 hours after it was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, the state Senate voted to approve a measure that would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions.

    Governor Pat Quinn has already pledged to sign SB1716, the “”Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act,”” which was co-sponsored by openly gay Rep. Greg Harris.

    The measure passed in the Senate by a 32-24-1 vote Wednesday, and the passed the Illinois House by a 61-52 majority vote on Tuesday.

    “”This is a legacy vote,”” Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said on the Senate floor. “”It makes a statement about the justice for which we stand.”” The Chicago Tribune reports that Steans was referencing the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, urging colleagues to bend “”the moral arc of justice.””

    Civil unions would provide legal recognition of gay couples and give them some of the same benefits automatically available to married couples, including the right to visit a sick partner in the hospital, disposition of a deceased loved one’s remains and the right to make decisions about a loved one’s medical care. ”

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