Friday, May 22, 2009

Illinois poised to approve civil unions

ok its not marriage but its a big step in the right direction. it will flip like the others eventually.

Washington Blade: Gay and Lesbian News, Entertainment, Politics and Opinion

Illinois poised to approve civil unions
Lawmakers to amend 'shell bill' to pass measure

By CHRIS JOHNSON, Washington Blade
May 21 2009, 1:02 PM | [Bookmark and Share] | [Email this article]

The Illinois General Assembly is expected to approve a measure next week that would legalize civil unions, according to an LGBT activist.

Rick Garcia, political director for Equality Illinois, said Thursday he's "absolutely" expecting the full state House and the Senate to pass a civil union measure either Tuesday or Wednesday. The bill has support from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D).

The House Youth and Family Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Harris, who's gay, intends to attach an amendment legalizing civil unions to a "shell bill" that's already been approved by the Senate, Garcia said. If the full House votes in favor of the legislation, the bill would be sent to the full Senate within hours for a vote of concurrence.

Garcia said Illinois lawmakers often use "shell bills" to pass legislation expediently. He said it's necessary to legalize civil unions through this method because the legislative session ends May 30 and the approach limits the time that opponents of civil unions can lobby lawmakers.

"We get it out of the House and then senators only have a few hours of being beat up by our opponents rather than three days or a long weekend," he said. "Since there is a perfectly legitimate way of doing it in one day, that's what we're going to do."

The official purpose of the "shell bill" that lawmakers are planning to amend relates to death and estate issues.

On March 5, the House Youth and Family Committee reported out legislation that would have legalized civil unions with a vote of 5-4. The amendment that lawmakers intend to attach to the "shell bill" has identical language to the legislation, Garcia said.

Garcia said Equality Illinois has nine lobbyists working as either full-time staffers or contractors to encourage lawmakers to vote in favor of civil unions. Other groups assisting in passing the measure include the American Civil Liberties Union, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Service Employees International Union, Garcia said.

Should the measure become law, both gay and straight couples could enter into civil unions. As there's no explicit language regarding an effective date, couples could start entering into civil unions 30 days after the bill is signed into law, Garcia said.

The measure contains language noting that the establishment of civil unions would not interfere with the practices of any religious group and that any religious institution could decide for itself whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil uni

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