Civil Unions Bill Passes in the Illinois House

It’s about damn time.

SB 1716, a bill allowing civil unions in Illinois, was passed by the House in a 61-52 vote. The State Senate is expected to pass it and Governor Pat Quinn has said he will sign it into law.

Making this victory even sweeter was coming home to an “Urgent” Prayer Request email from the Illinois Family Institute that they sent earlier today:

Dave Smith is in Springfield with Linda Jernigan, a former lesbian, who has a powerful testimony and has been able to talk with many lawmakers. Our 2 lobbyists are also there working hard to keep lawmakers from caving into pressures. And the pressures are great! Things are very fluid as I write this message and there are arms being twisted and necks being stepped on to get the 60 votes needed in the House.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Isaiah 5:20-21

Will you join us in praying that God would intervene and stop this bill from passing?

Neither their god nor their lobbyists were very effective today.

Better for the rest of us who prefer equal rights instead of selective bigotry.

(Update: I know this civil unions bill isn’t the same as legalizing gay marriage. Believe me, I want the full marriage equality. But this is an important step in that direction and it’s nice to see the Illinois House admitting as much with their votes. Hell, it’s nice to see our state government doing damn near anything productive these days…)

  • http://yetanotheratheist.net Yet Another Atheist

    I wouldn’t call civil unions “equal rights”. I’d hardly even call it a step in the right direction. It’s basically “separate but equal”, putting gays as second-class citizens. It’s better than nothing I suppose.

  • http://eruditehypocrite.blogspot.com Jesus

    I agree with YAA. Is something better than nothing when something is so trivial? What if we were fighting for the right to eat at least once daily but only won the right to eat once weekly? We’d still be starved, but is it better than not eating at all? I guess so…

  • NotYou007

    Will you join us in praying that God would intervene and stop this bill from passing?

    So this proves it was God’s will and that God does approve of gay marriage.

  • Michael

    False analogy, Jesus. It would be more like fighting for the right to eat lunch, but getting the right to eat a “noon-ish meal.”

  • «bønez_brigade»

    So, I guess this means IFI will have to admit that their god is impotent. Awesome.

  • http://eruditehypocrite.blogspot.com Jesus

    I suppose, Michael. But I think it’s more like fighting for the right to eat lunch, but winning a “noonish meal” that they are forced to eat in a separate room in the dark with no clothes on. It just doesn’t even come close to a win.

  • Steve

    The anti-gay organizations are indeed right about one thing:
    Civil unions are a slippery slope towards marriage

    And CUs aren’t that trivial. They can offer exactly the same rights as marriage on a state level. That’s vitally important for some people. It’s true that they don’t have the same social status and some institutions (illegally) don’t immediately recognize them, but to dismiss them as worthless is callous.

  • ben

    Will the “civil unions” be afforded the same and equal rights as married couples? If so, what’s the difference what it’s called. And why should we care? Sorry, I’m a straight male and may not be as educated on the difference if they are the same thing and receive the same benefits. Perhaps we should call all marriages “civil unions” if they receive the same and equal treatment….seems to me it’s becoming a matter of semantics.

  • tim

    @ben

    No it isn’t. First and formost marriage is a civil contract between two individuals. And that civil contract has changed as society has changed.

    But really civil unions don’t work. Employers have not honored them (UPS is a classic example). And the law is confused about how to handle them. Reports on New Jersey’s Civil Unions came back with the recommendation that New Jersey pass a same-sex marriage law to deal with the inequalities that were cropping up. Which was defeated the last time it was brought up.

    Its simply not semantics. They simply don’t work.

    My partner and I will most likely not take advantage of the civil unions law until the federal question is addressed. You enter a legal grey area.

  • http://eruditehypocrite.blogspot.com Jesus

    Semantics are key. How would you feel about introducing your wife as your civil partner? You didn’t get married, you got united. How would you feel about not being able to see your dying civil partner in the E.R. during his/her last moments because you are non-family and you failed to bring your state civil-union license.

    This compares to fighting for the right to vote, then finding out your vote only counts as half a vote because you have an affinity for spandex.

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com/ pinkocommie

    The reason segregation laws were abolished wasn’t because separate but equal was physically impossible – it was because even if you have the exact same situation, the psychological impact to the group being distinguished from the other group is intensely destructive.

    Telling gay people they ought to be happy with civil unions is pretty ridiculous. If it’s equal, it’s equal. But this civil unions business is NOT equal, even if in a lot of cases it’s pretty much the same thing only it’s called something different. Culturally civil unions don’t carry with them the same meaning that heterosexual marriage does which might not seem important right now, but it’s a very culturally significant difference that could potentially make things worse socially for the GLBT community in the long run.

    Just let them effing get married already.

  • thebigJ_A

    Being from Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is allowed, I just can’t comprehend the arguments against it.

    I’m proud to live in a state that decided to recognize peoples’ basic human rights, and did it without too much trouble (there was a strong effort to stop it, but that *mostly* came from out-of-state). And guess what, Christians! The sky has not fallen. So-called “traditional” families have not been weakened. In fact, no one really even thinks about it. In a good way. It doesn’t make the news. It’s just taken for granted that two people can marry if they like, regardless of gender.

    I’m sure there are people in the state who are still against it, but too bad for them. I’d like to congratulate Illinois for taking a step towards decency, now just keep on in this direction. It’s pleasant here, you won’t regret it.

  • ben

    Forgive my ignorance…I just didn’t know / understand. I always just assumed marriage was a religious term. I was just trying to say that if civil unions were deemed equal to “marriage” what would be the real difference? If all business was required to treat the 2 the same nothing would be seemingly different. I’m not really convinced on the seperate but equal argument if both are legally equal and afforded the same rights but some religious folk want it to be called something else. I’m just don’t understand. I seriously don’t want to offend anyone who’s gay here.

  • Steve

    Marriages started out as agreements between families. If people considered themselves married, they were. Then governments came along and codified the rights and responsibilities. The Church only got involved in the marriage business in the 12th century or so. Then later, the government took it back.

    Civil unions can offer the same benefits in theory. In practice, people and institutions don’t always recognize them. They often don’t know what they are or what legal status they have. So it still happened that people were denied benefits or rights. That’s been documented in New Jersey and some politicians admitted that the law wasn’t quite working.

    For the emotional importance of the word marriage, watch this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wnvMSIIiHc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwBsnklZpwM (from 5:00 on)

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    What kills me is how many Christians will say, “My REAL problem is with the word marriage. But civil unions are fine!” but when push comes to shove (like here), they bitch and moan about civil unions too. Which, as others have noted, are NOT equal to marriage in any way.

    Full equality. Less than that is just not okay.

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    If the homosexual community doesn’t like civil unions, why were they behind this bill? The only reason I can conclude is that they know it is just one step away from same sex marriage and thus the slippery slope argument of those that opposed it seem to be correct.

    From the comments here it looks like the next step will be to say that this bill isn’t working so let’s just allow same sex marriage.

    A review of the bill however, does say that a civil union partner is a spouse so I would think that those parties could call themselves spouse.

    One interesting section in the law is specific language that religious institutions don’t need to perform civil unions. I find it strange that this section was necessary if as those that support same sex marriage say that is not a concern for churches to have… i.e. that it would never be forced upon them to conduct same sex marriages or in this case unions.

    One of the big problems with the law unrelated to same sex unions is now some middle ground between living together and marriage for heterosexual couples. Not sure how that will work but it seems unnecessary.

  • http://Q Kevin S.

    Civil Unions were never intended to be marriage for gay people – they were intended for straight couples who wanted a lesser degree of commitment. Forcing gay couples into them as some sort of marriage analogue not only denies those couples the full marriage rights they deserve, it distorts the intention of civil unions in the first place. You’d wind up needing to create a third institution to cover them. Just give LGBT folk marriage, and leave CUs for their intended purpose.

  • Jim [different Jim]

    It’s times like this that I am glad to be Canadian. We have had gay marriage nation wide for several years now and guess what! Hetero marriages are still meaningful to the couples involved, people are NOT marrying children or pets and we still have a vastly lower per capita murder rate than the United States.

  • Heidi

    Being from Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is allowed, I just can’t comprehend the arguments against it.

    This. ^ We have zero problems with gay people getting married here. Once in a while you get some anti-equality person pissing and moaning. (Case in point, the guy who told his supervisor to stop talking about her upcoming wedding to her partner. And somehow he was surprised that he got fired??) Plus there’s that one guy that the Globe always calls for a dissenting opinion. But gay people and gay marriages themselves never cause any problems at all.

    Anyway, I say take the civil unions, but don’t be satisfied with them. Meanwhile, come get married for real here in Massachusetts. :-)

  • Richard Wade

    Hmm. The optimist in me wants to say that the step from no rights for same sex couples to civil unions is large, and the step from that to bona fide marriage is small.

    But the pessimist in me thinks that it’s just a bone thrown to the equal rights activists to try to placate them and delay full, unequivocal rights as long as possible.

    But either way, full marriage rights for same sex couples is inevitable. I will see it and I will attend some same sex weddings. Use this only for more pressure, not to back off. Don’t rest until we all have complete freedom.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Sweden introduced civil unions in the 1990s but last year changed this to marriages. In England we’ve had civil unions since 2003 and already there are political murmurs of updating this to cal it marriage. It is a good step in the right direction. If the record of other countries is any indication then the law will change in time.

    Robert

    One of the big problems with the law unrelated to same sex unions is now some middle ground between living together and marriage for heterosexual couples. Not sure how that will work but it seems unnecessary.

    I view the current institute of marriage to be a largely religious ceremony that is supported by civil law. I’m not religious so I’ve decided not to marry. I would be happy to engage in a purely civil union but as it stands in my country civil unions are only for gay couples. As a straight man with a straight female partner I am denied the right to a civil union on the grounds of my sexual preference.

    The distinction is unfair and unequal for straights and gays. Better to call them both marriage in my opinion and differentiate where necessary or desired the religious component.

  • GentleGiant

    Our 2 lobbyists are also there working hard to keep lawmakers from caving into pressures. And the pressures are great! Things are very fluid as I write this message and there are arms being twisted and necks being stepped on to get the 60 votes needed in the House.

    *headdesk*
    Don’t these people see the irony and hypocrisy in their own statements???

    But I guess it’s only “pressure” when it’s the evil other guys who’s doing it.

    Also… “a former lesbian” – really? The levels of stupidity continues to amaze me.

  • Nordog

    It’s taking a bit longer than I had expected, but I have no doubt that full “gay marriage” rights will be the law of the land in the USA in the near future.

    It is inevitable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Anyway, I say take the civil unions, but don’t be satisfied with them.

    Ditto.

    I agree that it’s separate but equal bullshit and that’s unacceptable. Hence, take it and keep it fighting. Keep saying that’s enough.

    I really don’t understand why so many ascribe marriage to religion. Yes, there are religious marriages but there are also civil ones. I was in a civil one for four years. He was Baptist; I was Agnostic and we got married by a Justice of the Peace.

    They probably included the wording unnecessarily (separation of church and state means a church doesn’t have to marry anyone it doesn’t approve of; i.e., the Catholic Church doesn’t have to marry a member to a non-Catholic unwilling to go through their classes for such, bigoted churches still don’t have to perform interracial marraiges) to placate the religious nutcakes opposing even this much.

    I think it’s a good sign that they did put it in even though it was not necessary. Kind of indicates an intent to forge ahead no matter what the religious think. The m word’s around the corner. And, yeah, gay marriage needs to be legal nationwide. It needs to be enacted at the Federal level.

  • Robert W.

    Nordog,

    It is obvious that these fights will be heading to the Supreme Court, with the first one potentially Perry v. Schwarzenegger over Prop. 8. With its current make up I would be surprised if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage.

    I also suspect that as more and more states engage in this fight, that more states will send the issue to the people to vote and that in most of those cases the people will reject the idea. If you can’t pass this in California, your chances elsewhere are really slim.

    I agree that the continued fight is inevitable, but I disagree that the outcome is as inevitable as you claim.

    In my opinion, I think the more likely outcome is more and more states rejecting this idea through a vote of the people with the Supreme Court upholding those votes as being constitutional.

  • http://Q Kevin S.

    You do realize that the majority voting on the rights of the minority has always, inevitably, been overturned by the courts, right? State-wide referendums are meaningless in the long-term – the only thing that matters is whether or not the Supreme Court rules banning SSM violates the Constitution. I’m also not sure where you get the idea that Kennedy will “probably” vote against it, but I’d argue that his vote might not even be the swing. Scalia, for all he’s been demonized by the left, is more of a “small government” conservative than a theocratic conservative, and I think he very well could see this as an unnecessary government intrusion and a violation of the religious freedoms of the Episcopalian church, Unitarians United, the MCC, Reformed Jews and any other religious organizations that wish to sanction SSM. Further, saying the court is likely to vote against it is saying they’ll go solely on ideology and ignoring the evidence presented in the case. It’s the only hope for the Yes on 8 crowd, because Olsen and Boies simply annihilated any arguments that were actually put forth in court.

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com/ pinkocommie

    Robert – did you know that when Brown V. Board was ruled on and segregation was declared unconstitutional, almost every single Southern senator (if not all of them) signed something called the Southern Manifesto exclaiming that they would never desegregate? Changes like this don’t have to be popular, they need to be constitutionally sound. Besides, giving everyone equal rights is the right thing to do. Even a godless heathen like me knows that. :p

  • Nordog

    It is obvious that these fights will be heading to the Supreme Court, with the first one potentially Perry v. Schwarzenegger over Prop. 8. With its current make up I would be surprised if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage.

    Yeah, I don’t know about that. I mean, you may indeed be correct, I just don’t know.

    However, the soon to be completed demise of DADT will be a huge nail in the coffin of defining marraige as being between a man and a woman.

    And all of this comes down to the definition of marraige, or more to the point, the re-definition of marraige.

    I’ve long said that gays and lesbians have always had the right to marry. It’s the same right that I have.

    Only gays and lesbians don’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex (obviously).

    So the question, I once thought, was do gays and lesbians have the right to re-define marraige?

    I once also thought that they did not have that right, but I’ve changed on that point.

    However, even if I had been right that gays and lesbians (or anyone for that matter) did not have the right to redefine marraige, it would have been irrelevant.

    The fact of the matter is marraige is being/has been redefined.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that even this Supreme Court could rule in favor of gay marriage.

    I hold that the conservative members of SCOTUS do not rule from a sense of theocracy or ideology, but from the law.

    Depending on how the case is presented, that is, what argument is put forward in favor of gay marraige, and what the law is, then I easily can imagine this Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage.

    Again, I don’t know because I don’t know the specifics of either the arguments of the cases involved or the statutes that actually apply.

    Perhaps I should have taken the time to find out about those specifics, but I thought, “Why bother? Gay Marriage WILL happen in the USA.”

    And it will.

    Further, I’ll state that I think it should (even though I oppose it personally).

    Why?

    Because marriage in the USA has not been marriage properly understood (properly understood imo) for many years.

    Marraige today is not about permanence or reproduction. The wholesale embrace of no fault divorce and contrception in marraige by “heterosexual society” is really what has re-defined marraige.

    Gays are not a threat to traditional marraige. Heterosexuals killed traditional marraige years ago.

    As a matter of civil and secular law as it currently exists, I see no right or reason to withold the right of “marraige” to gays and lesbians.

    But then I would say the same about witholding that right to siblings, polyamorous unions, etc.

    I think it wrong to conclude that opponents of “gay marriage” are automatically bigots.

    Many, if not most, are operating from the false notion that the traditional marraige definition they seek to protect actually exists anymore.

    It doesn’t. There are many marraiges that do meet that traditional definition, but the definition, to the degree that definition means to limit meaning, is kaput.

    Put another way, while many claim that “civil union” does not rise to the level of marraige, I contend that marriage was reduced to the level of “civil union” years ago.

    At this point, the difference is semantic only.

  • http://Q Kevin S.

    Two things. One, civil unions are not marriages, nor has one been brought to the level of the other (not fully or universally, anyway). What’s relevant is not the connotations associated with the terms, it’s the denotations applied to these two legal institutions. And the fact remains that marriage typically carries eleven hundred more rights than civil unions do, in addition to interstate recognition (for straight couples, anyway). Civil unions simply aren’t the same thing, no matter how much people want to consider them to be the equivalent of state marriage.

    Secondly, I think you’re right in that the repeal of DADT will lead the way towards the ending of DOMA (or at least the part that bans federal recognition of SSM). A decent part of the report addressed how post-repeal policy will be affected by DOMA, and the discrimination it requires will lead to DOMA being ended, either by the courts or the legislature.

  • Nordog

    Kevin,

    I agree with you that there are many differences between the two in the practical realm. My point is that in the fundamental sense there is no difference, and this is why the pro SSM movement will have history on its side, so to speak.

  • Robert W.

    Nordog,

    One thing for sure is we will find out soon.

    I agree with you that our society has devalued marriage long before this fight began which, as a conservative Christian I think is a tragedy but we can’t blame the same sex marriage movement for damage we cause ourselves.

    However, if this movement reawakens the recognition of traditional values regarding marriage and the need to fight for and to strengthen that institution then it will end up being a good thing.

  • Matt E

    More proof, if it were needed, that prayer doesn’t work. Or, and this for me is the more amusing idea, maybe “God” is in a civil partnership him/herself?

  • Nordog

    More proof, if it were needed, that prayer doesn’t work. Or, and this for me is the more amusing idea, maybe “God” is in a civil partnership him/herself?

    Matt,

    Why “Or”? You do realize that you present a false dichotomy don’t you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Heterosexuals killed traditional marraige years ago.

    Viva it’s demise! And no-fault should be the standard always. (We just got it here in New York this year. Talk about behind the times.) No one should be forced to stay in a marriage they don’t want to be in. No one.

  • GentleGiant

    I wonder what this “traditional marriage” people like Robert W. keeps talking about is?
    Do you know the history of marriage? Are you talking about marriage in a “biblical sense?”

    In that case, your precious “traditional marriage” consisted of marriage between cousins, multiple wives, marrying kids, marrying kidnapped women etc. just to name a few. Have you people actually read the book you hold so dear?

    For a slightly humorous take on it, let’s have Mrs. Betty Bowers explain it to you

  • Nick Andrew

    It’s a start … but we won’t rest until full marriage equality is granted.

  • Nordog

    It’s a start … but we won’t rest until full marriage equality is granted.

    Is that a promise?


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