By Tray Wetherell
Today at the Chicago Cultural Center, Governor Pat Quinn will sign into law the Illinois Religious Freedoms and Civil Unions Act, legislation that will allow civil unions to be permitted and recognized in Illinois. What this means is that same sex couples can now join together in “Civil Unions” what while are not marriage in the literal sense, they do allow most if not all of the rights and benefits that come with marriage.
What will this mean exactly? Starting on June 1, 2011, couples who are not blood relations of either the same sex or not will be able to obtain a civil union certificate at their respective county clerk’s office. The certificates will all couples to have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples under standard Illinois laws. Human rights organizations such as Equality Illinois have listed some 650 rights that gay couples cannot utilize.
The Chicago Tribune outlined some of these benefits such as “tax relief, access to domestic relations laws, spousal benefits that include workers compensation, emergency medical decision making, inheritance rights, control of the remains of the deceased spouse, and spousal testimonial privilege”.
Conservative and religious activists oppose the legislation calling it a slippery slope to same-sex marriage. Illinois becomes the sixth state in the Union to recognize some form of same sex marriage now, but has done so not by referendum or the judiciary, but by official legislation and approval from the governor of that state. The legislation passed 61-52 in the Illinois House and 32-24 in the Senate back December of 2010.
Other states and municipalities have had everything from judges approving from the bench, which some decry as municipal and judicial activism, a good example would be California, where the mayor of San Francisco passed an act allowing same sex marriage in the City, an act that would eventually lead to the California supreme court overturning the same sex ban on marriage and a ballot initiative known as Proposition 8 was passed into law in 2008.