02 December 2010

Illinois Senate approves civil union

The Illinois Senate yesterday approved SB 1716 granting civil union status for homosexual couples.

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

Illinois will soon allow gays and lesbians to enter into unions in which they will have virtually the same rights as a married couple.

Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday he will sign Senate Bill 1716, which creates civil unions and passed the state Senate on a 32-24 vote. The bill, which needed 30 votes to pass, received support from 31 of the Senate’s 37 Democrats. The only Republican who voted for it was Sen. Dan Rutherford of Chenoa, who is the state’s treasurer-elect. Six Republicans voted for the measure in the House on Tuesday.

"I think this is a proud day for the people of our state [not for everyone]," Quinn told reporters in his office after the vote. "It's everybody in and nobody left out."

Legalizing civil unions is the latest step toward making sure everyone has the same rights and a natural follow-up to movements that pushed for the right to vote for women and blacks and the civil rights era effort to make sure blacks could exercise those rights, supporters said [these issues aren't on the same level at all].

"I see this issue through the eyes of a father who has a gay child," said the measure's Senate sponsor, Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria. "Within each generation, we have sought to make the American dream more accessible. ... Society does change its viewpoints [Yes, but not every change is good; the Truth is not determined by a majority vote]."

GOP challenges cost

Senate Republican spoke more stridently against the bill than their House counterparts did. They sought to raise doubts about the bill's cost and assailed Quinn and Democratic legislative leaders for pushing it in the midst of a crisis in which the state budget deficit is $13 billion.

"We're under this huge burden of debt," said state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Decatur. "We have a budget we have failed to be able to balance. It seems to be on everyone's mind, yet we come back here and spend a lot of time on issues like this.

“It's wrong to not show honor and respect to the institution of marriage between a man and a woman,” McCarter said.

Republicans questioned whether the bill would mean state and local governments and private businesses would have to spend more money on pensions and health care. Because the bill gives people in civil unions almost all the same rights as a married man and woman, a company that offers health-care benefits to opposite-sex spouses also would have to do so with same-sex spouses who have entered civil unions [This is one place where the freedom of the free expression of religion will begin to break down].

Koehler said a private business faces the same situation if it hires an unmarried person who might later marry [That's a different matter altogether and wouldn't require someone to violate their conscience].

No business opposition

"That's a risk you take as an employer," Koehler said. He said no businesses had called him to oppose the legislation.

Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, D-Evanston, noted that many businesses already offer health and other benefits to those in domestic partnerships – opposite or same sex – because American workers have demanded it.

“Business has already decided,” he said. “They cast their vote on the side of capitalism.”

The legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability said the bill “will not impact any public pension fund or retirement system in Illinois.” The Department of Central Management Services said the state would incur some increased costs related to the state's group insurance system, the state's deferred compensation program and death benefits under workers compensation [It's curious how the primary concern of this reporter is financial, when the issue is really a moral one].

"An estimate, however, cannot be determined due to the unknown number of civil unions that would occur under this bill," CMS said in a fiscal note sent to the legislature.

"These are all guesstimates, at best," said Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington. "How can I support this if we don't know how much money this bill will cost Illinois taxpayers or how we will pay for it?"

Illinoisans want fairness

Rutherford, an ardent fiscal conservative, saw noise in the chamber cease when he spoke.

"I've been all over Illinois (campaigning for treasurer)," Rutherford said. "I've been in your districts. The legislation today, it is opposed by some. And it's uncomfortable for some.

“One thing I do know about the people of Illinois is that they want fairness,” Rutherford said. “The people of Illinois, they don't want discrimination [this isn't a matter of discrimation; everything the bill allows was already possible before it's passage]. It's the right thing to do. I will be voting yes."

Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, lampooned Republican arguments against the bill.

"When I sit here and I hear adulterers and womanizers and folks cheating on their wives and down-low brothers saying they're going to vote against this bill, it turns my stomach!" Hendon said, referring to colleagues whom he did not name. "We know what you do at night. And you know, too. ... Why make it about pensions? ... It's not about pensions. Just say you don't like certain folk.

"You know, I'm a Christian. You might not believe it. But I'm a Baptist -- saved and sanctified, dipped in the holy water when I was 12 years old. I'm going to go to heaven when I die [I'm glad he's so confident of them]. But I'm going to vote for this bill. It ain't going to send me to hell. And it won't send you there, either." [He might be surprised. Remember the words of Jesus: "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father" (Matthew 7:21).


Civil unions personal for Peoria senator

For state Sen. David Koehler, the decision to sponsor a civil unions bill was an easy one.

“As the father of three daughters,” the Peoria Democrat said, “explain to me why two of them have rights that one doesn’t have [No one has a right to that which is contrary to the natural law. And all of these so-called rights were already possible before this legislation was introduced. I find it curious how supporters of the bill refuse to acknowledge this].”

Koehler’s daughter, Maggie, was on the floor of the Senate and brought her partner, Brennan Kramer, to Springfield for the vote.

Maggie Koehler said she has been working on the issue since before her father, a retired minister in the United Church of Christ, was elected to the Senate. She came out about when Vermont became the first state to have civil unions in 2000.

“This is an early Christmas present,” Maggie Koehler said [And what a sad and dangerous gift it is, with many as yet unacknowledged consequences].

Maggie Koehler and Kramer will hold an engagement party in a few weeks [but this bill is not about the legalization of so-called homosexual "marriage," we've repeatedly been told]. They plan to obtain a civil union in Illinois on Labor Day 2011 rather than getting married in a state that allows full-fledged marriage.

This is my state,” Maggie Koehler saidd [No, it isn't your state; it is our state].

Opponents of civil unions criticized the use of family stories, such as those of the Koehlers, to pass the bill [And correctly so. The passage of legislation needs to be done on the basis of reason and logic, not on the basis of emotion].

“Proponents engaged in embarrassing and maudlin displays of sentimentality intended to emotionally manipulate rather than intellectually persuade their colleagues,” David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said in a statement.

Maggie Koehler wasn’t surprised that her father became the bill’s Senate sponsor. David Koehler said he doesn’t fear that voters will oust him out for his actions.

“That’s the risk you run when you’re in public service,” David Koehler said [If that's the risk you take then why was the bill introduced for a vote prior the recent election? Yes, a real courageous move, indeed].

Throughout the debate, opponents accused civil union supporters of eventually wanting full-fledged marriage for same-sex couples [And rightly so. Calls for the legal homosexual "marrage" where already made Tuesday after the House passed the bill, but that must be entirely irrelevant]. Rep. Greg Harris, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House, conceded as much, but said the odds are long [But not undesired by those who support the legislation, and they will move to pass it].

“It was a close vote in both chambers. I think that was instructive,” Harris said. “To sort of the left side of me [there's a surprise], I have people in my community who are very upset. They said, ‘Why didn’t you go for full equality or nothing and hold these people’s feet to the fire and make them all vote for us?’

“We found a center course [No, you didn't; the center - if it exists - was already there; all of these "benefits" were already available to homosexual couples], a moderate course and a middle course.”

But Maggie Koehler holds out hope she will be able to marry Brennan Kramer some day.

“That’s what I want for this entire country,” she said.

What a civil union will do

There are hundreds of rights couples who enter into civil unions will have that mirror the rights of married opposite-sex couples, said Camilla Taylor, senior staff attorney with Lamda Legal. Among the major rights:

-- Hospital visitation [this was already possible before this legislation was introduced]
-- Make medical decisions for a partner if he or she is incapacitated [this was already possible before this legislation was introduced]

-- Automatic inheritance of property and money [this was already possible before this legislation was introduced]

-- Make burial or cremation decisions [this was already possible before this legislation was introduced]

-- Receive health care or other benefits an employer offers to spouses [this was already possible from some companies before this legislation was introduced]

-- Take family emergency and medical leave [this was already possible from some copmanies before this legislation was introduced]

-- Receive non-federal survivor pension benefits

-- A child, whether adopted or conceived through artificial insemination, would automatically be the child of both people in a same-sex union [even though the data shows this is not beneficial to children].

What a civil union won’t do

Because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, those in them could not:

-- File joint federal tax returns [yet]

-- Receive Social Security survivor benefits [yet]

-- Receive immigration benefits or sponsor a foreign-born spouse [I thought this wasn't about marriage?] for citizenship [yet]

-- Federal workers in a civil union could not receive health care or other federal benefits offered to spouses [yet].

Paprocki chides Quinn

Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki on Wednesday challenged Gov. Pat Quinn’s support for legalization of civil unions. Quinn said Tuesday that his faith – Quinn was raised a Catholic -- had inspired him to support civil unions.

He did not say what religious faith that would be, but it certainly is not the Catholic faith,” Paprocki said in a statement. “If the governor wishes to pursue a secular agenda for political purposes, that is his prerogative for which he is accountable to the voters. But if he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority, and the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.”

Asked about the bishop's statement, Quinn said, “I follow my conscience. My conscience is not kicking me in the shins today [Yes, such a faithful Catholic]."

There is more to the article.

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