01 December 2010

Illinois House of Representatives approves same-sex civil unions

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

After an emotional and tear-filled debate, the Illinois House Tuesday approved landmark legislation that would require the state to recognize same-sex unions, giving couples in civil unions most of the legal rights granted to married people of opposite genders.

Under the bill, couples in civil unions would have the right to visit their life partners in the hospital or make medical decisions if one is incapacitated [this can already be arranged without this legislation].

The bill passed with a 61-52 margin. Sixty votes were required for passage.

The term “marriage” would continue to be reserved for unions of men and women [But for how long? Rest assured, they will not stop here], although unmarried opposite-sex couples also could obtain civil-union status.

Religious organizations would not be required to recognize or bless a civil union [Again, for how long? They will not be content with this]. Civil unions are not recognized under federal law .

Gov. Pat Quinn – who campaigned on the issue, lobbied members and was on the floor of the House for much of Tuesday’s debate – lauded the House’s action. Quinn said he would sign the bill if it passes the Senate, where a vote is expected today.

“My religious faith animates me to support this bill,” Quinn, a Catholic, told reporters after the vote. “I think, as a matter of conscience, this was the right vote.” [Here we have another fake Catholic does not know his religious faith and has not properly formed his conscience. His words will be a cause of scandal to many and will only lead to further and greater confusion.]

‘Slippery slope’

Opponents of the measure included Chicago Cardinal Francis George, the Catholic Conference of Illinois and the Illinois Family Institute. Opponents said legalization of civil unions will lead eventually to approval of full-fledged gay marriage [Mark our words: it will. And beyond that, to charges of hate speech when the Church simply holds fast to the faith she has received from Christ].

“I think this is a step down a slippery slope. Call me an old-fashioned traditionalist,” said Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville, who said the fall of societies such as ancient Greece and Rome could be tied to homosexuality [there is much more involved in their falls than homosexuality; this is too much of an overstatement].

“One of the commonalities is open homosexuality becomes accepted in the higher society,” Stephens said. “Here we are at that precipice again.”

Two openly gay House members -- Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and Rep. Deb Mell, D-Chicago -- pleaded with their colleagues to pass the legislation [For what reasons?].

Some opponents argued that instead of passing civil unions, same-sex couples should obtain powers of attorney and reach other legal agreements with their partners. Harris, the bill's sponsor, said hiring a lawyer could be costly and same-sex partners would have to come up with documentation for every conceivable situation [attorney's are not required to file a power of attorney for healthcare or for property in Illinois; living wills in Illinois also do not require an attorney. Perhaps before voting for new legislation, Representative Harris should learn the present legislation on the books].

Harris told the story of the late Rep. Larry McKeon, who was also openly gay. McKeon sought to be at his life partner's bedside when he died, but forgot to bring a signed legal agreement giving him that right [if the ridiculous privacy laws were not passed that make it difficult even for a pastor to learn if a parishioner is in the hospital such legal agreements might not be necessary; the legislature passed these laws and so the legislature could simply remove them].

“The hospital turned Larry away. They said he did not have the proper documentation with him [the hospital was only acting in accord with the law; if the legislators do not like the present law they can change it]. They did not consider him next of kin [which he wasn't],” Harris said. “He returned to the hospital and missed the passing of his life partner by mere minutes.”

‘We are a family’

Mell, whose partner, Christin Baker, was on the House floor with her, said, “I love my state. I'm proud to live here. But my state does not treat me equally.

“It will take my money. It will take my taxes. It will let me make laws. But God forbid something happen to Christin.

“I’m not able to speak to her wishes. The doctor has to go to her family, and I’m not considered family [Again, that can easily be arranged, without this legislation]. I assure you we are a family, and we deserve the same rights you enjoy [You can have the same rights you keep mentioning without this present legislation].”

Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill, said other states that have passed civil unions saw supporters go to court and sue for full marriage rights under the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

“Are you ready for gay marriage? Because that's what could come out of this,” Reis said [He's right]. “I don't think we’re ready for this. I don't think the people of Illinois want this” [I don't think we do].

While many Republicans voted against civil unions, Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, and Rep. Mark Beaubien, R-Barrington Hills, spoke and voted in favor of the bill. It was one of the last votes Black will cast in the General Assembly because he is retiring after this session [that's convenient].

Age differences

Black talked about how Illinois’ late U.S. senator, Everett McKinley Dirksen, who, as Republican leader in the Senate, got his party to sign onto civil rights legislation.

“I’m in my seventh decade of life,” Black said. “People my age have difficulty with this. Younger people do not [I think he's a bit disconnected].

“Everett McKinley Dirksen was a leader and a statesman. He realized civil rights was an issue that was past due. ... He never voted for a piece of civil rights legislation [there's a rather large disconnect here somewhere]. He said, ‘There is a time that I'd rather be right than consistent.’ I intend to vote aye."

“My only statement is there comes a time,” Beaubien said. “Now is the time.”

Religious leaders were not united against the bill. Equality Illinois, a supporter of the bill, released a list of 300 clergy members [of what denominations? And out of how many clergy in Illinois?] who support civil unions. One, the Rev. Martin Woulfe of the 300-member Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Springfield, said civil unions are a civil rights issue [that's not surprising].

“I believe that every couple, every adult couple, has a fundamental right to have a relationship which is blessed by a religious community that will accept them but also is entitled to basic human rights and civil rights in our society,” he said.

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.

Senate Bill 1716 -- what it does

Same-sex or opposite-sex couples can enter into legally recognized civil unions. Among the rights to which those in a civil union would be entitled:

-- Make medical decisions if their partner is incapacitated [this can already be arranged without SB 1716]

-- Make burial or cremation decisions [this can be arranged without SB 1716]

-- Allow hospital visitation [this can be arranged without SB 1716]

-- Inherit property [this can be arranged without SB 1716]

The civil union process

Those who want to enter into a civil union would fill out a form with a county clerk and pay a fee (the fee isn’t specified in the bill [that doesn't make a bit of sense, which is also not surprising]). The county clerk would issue a license and a certificate declaring the civil union is not prohibited by law.

The civil union then could be certified by a judge, retired judge, public official whose powers include solemnization of marriages or “in accordance with the prescriptions of any religious denomination, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group.”

Once a civil union is certified, the county clerk would give a copy of the certificate and the date and location of the civil union to the Department of Public Health.

States that allow civil unions

California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington

What's next

A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the bill will be called for a vote in the Senate Wednesday.

What the bill says

“A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.”

Read the bill


How lawmakers voted

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago: Yes

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego: No

Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield: No

Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg: No

Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville: No

Rep. Betsy Hannig, D-Litchfield: Yes
This bill is not at all necessary to achieve what they want. If passed by the Senate, it will lead to the legalization of same-sex "marriages." Legalized same-sex "marriages" will lead to charges of hate speech and hate crimes against the Church.


  1. One sees, elsewhere on the blogosphere, the argument that the Catholic church or other unwilling churches will be forced, by way of lawsuits, to celebrate weddings for gay couples if C.U. or same-sex marriage legislation passes. I have trouble recalling, however, when the Catholic church was last forced by the state to celebrate a marriage for people who have divorces in their backgrounds.

    Notwithstanding all the concern many are expressing, this bill deals with civil law, not church law. Citizens have all sorts of rights that churches may or may not recognize. The government does not dictate how a church will celebrate sacraments. But civil law DOES have a role in recognizing the rights of adults to equal treatment by the state.

    Gay and lesbian people are grown-ups. They should be entitled to choose the individual with whom they would like to live out their lives--and they should have a reasonable expectation that such a significant relationship can be recognized, and codified, in civil law. (Divorced people are allowed to make that choice. The church does not argue that a divorced couple getting married at the courthouse, or in an Episcopal church, will undermine any denomination's religious liberties or lead to awful things for the integrity of the family. Or if Catholic bishops do make the latter argument, at least they do not expect church views on divorce and remarriage to be adhered to by civil authorities.)

  2. It's the trajectory that is now set, Steve. It wasn't that long ago that in Connectictut two gay legislators - who admitted to hating the Church - attempted to take governance of the Church's properties away from her.

    You are right that the bill deals with civil law, but the Church also has the right and duty to speak against immoral legislation. The Faith must shape and inform every aspect of our lives, and Catholics are - by virtue of their Baptism - to shape the culture to make it receptive to Christ.

    Homosexual people are already free - without this legislation - to live with whomever they want. There is no need to enshrine it law. What they want from this legislation - besides the continuing push to legalized homosexual "marriages" - can already be theirs under the current laws.

    The Church does say that divorced Catholics - presuming their marriage is valid - cannot enter into another marriage, regardless of where it is attempted. She says the same about anyone who baptized and marries someone who is baptized.