Illinois legally recognizes civil unions

Gay marriage

The Illinois legislature has officially voted to recognize civil unions. Image: Flickr / doxiehaus / CC-BY

In a very close vote today, the Illinois legislature legalized civil unions. The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor of Illinois within days. The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act not only legalizes civil unions, it protects the rights of religious institutions.

The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act

The act that has been passed by the Illinois legislature is called The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act, otherwise known as SB1716. The act legally recognizes homosexual couples and provides them with state rights similar to those of married couples. The act also specifically protects the rights of religious institutions to define and recognize marriage as they wish. The only limitations put on Illinois civil unions or marriages are that both individuals must be 18 years of age or older and not in an existing legally documented relationship.

Heavy debate over Illinois civil unions

The Illinois civil union bill did not pass without debate. The bill gathered multiple co-sponsors on its way through the house. Some opponents in the Illinois legislature argued against the bill for multiple reasons. Representative Ron Stephens argued that “open homosexuality” would lead to the fall of America, much like he believes it caused the fall of Rome. When Governor Pat Quinn signs the bill, it will go into effect January of 2011.

Other Illinois legislature votes

Though the passage of the Illinois civil unions bill is being hailed as historic, the Illinois legislature has tackled many other high-profile issues this session. Another heavily debated issue, medical marijuana, just barely failed the house. The medical marijuana bill would have allowed Illinois residents with “chronic pain” to receive prescriptions for marijuana. The bill failed 53-59. The Illinois legislature will also be taking on the death penalty. Senate Bill 3539 would abolish the death penalty, and it has already passed the Criminal Law committee. Many legislators are assuming that the bill will not pass the legislature, however.


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