04 December 2010

Governor to sign civil unions bill in January

From the State Journal Register, with my emphases and comments:

CHICAGO — Gay couples anxious for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to sign into law a measure giving them many of the same legal rights [which they can have right now if they simply fill out the proper paperwork available for free on the State's web site] as heterosexual married couples will have to wait a little while longer.

Quinn, who has promised to sign the civil unions legislation, said Friday he expects to hold a bill-signing ceremony early in the new year. The law still will go into effect in June.

Illinois lawmakers passed the legislation earlier this week. The law would grant official recognition to gay couples and give them rights including inheriting property when a partner dies [which they already have if a will is made], the authority to make medical decisions for one another [which they already have if a power of attorney for healthcare is filed] and to live together in a nursing home.

“The passage this week of the civil unions legislation was historic. It’s a landmark law [yes, but not all landmarks are happy sites], it’s headed my way and I think it will be the law of the land of Lincoln in the coming year,” Quinn said at an unrelated news conference.

Five other states already allow civil unions or something equivalent to it. Gay marriage is legal in five states and Washington, D.C.

Opponents of the Illinois legislation have criticized it as a move toward same-sex marriage [which it is]. But Illinois law will continue to refer only to unions between men and women as“marriage” [but for how long?] and federal law won’t recognize civil unions between gay couples.

Quinn has repeatedly said the new law will help the Illinois economy [which doesn't make a great deal of sense when you consider the added insurance benefits employers will have to provide under the legislation] and make businesses and other large gatherings like conventions want to bring their dollars to the state [and they won't because Illinois doesn't recognize same-sex civil unions?].

“When they’re picking a convention for their particular organization, I think they look for a state that is a welcoming, accepting, hospitable place and that’s what we are in Illinois. We have everybody in and nobody left out [by that logic, only ten states in the union fit the bill. Somehow I don't these conventions only meet in ten states],” he said.

On other legislation, Quinn said Friday:

*He remains skeptical of a proposal to expand gambling to help ease the state’s financial woes.

He doesn’t want Illinois to be the “Las Vegas of the Midwest,” Quinn said.

The Illinois Senate has approved a measure that would add five new state-regulated casinos, including the first one in Chicago. Proponents say adding the new casinos, plus expanding existing ones and installing slot machines at horse tracks could generate about $1 billion in new annual revenue. The state faces a budget deficit that could be as much as $15 billion.

*He needs to analyze legislation revamping the pension systems for Illinois police and firefighters.

Lawmakers this week approved a measure to reduce retirement benefits for future police and fire employees. However, it also requires municipalities to pay more into pension funds over the next 30 years to help catch up with longstanding underfunding, a provision Chicago officials say could force them to raise property taxes by 60 percent.

Quinn called the bill an “important area of reform,” but said he’ll meet with Mayor Richard Daley to talk about his concerns.

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