2009/2010: Civil Unions bill filed. Engagement
announced in the House. Public opinion poll
2010 Civil Unions Bill:
Representative Greg Harris (D - 13th District) is one of the few openly gay member of the Illinois Legislature and openly a person with AIDS. 1 He filed bill SB1716 the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act with the Clerk on 2009-FEB-17.
Under the bill, same-sex couples would enjoy a few of the hundreds of rights that Illinois automatically gives to opposite-sex married couples including: making end-of-life decisions, handling probate matters, sharing nursing home rooms, and visiting partners in hospitals that deny visits by anyone but family.
As introduced the bill synopsis stated:
"Creates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. Defines 'civil union' as a legal relationship between 2 persons, of either the same or opposite sex, established in accordance with the Act. Provides that a party to a civil union shall be entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses. Prohibits certain civil unions. Provides that the Director of Public Health shall prescribe forms for an application, license, and certificate for a civil union. Contains provisions regarding: application for a civil union license; certification of a civil union; and duties of the county clerk and Department of Public Health. Provides for dissolution and declaration of invalidity of a civil union. Provides that a marriage between persons of the same sex, a civil union, or a substantially similar legal relationship other than common law marriage, legally entered into in another jurisdiction, shall be recognized in Illinois as a civil union. Contains provisions regarding construction, application, religious freedom, severability, and other matters. 2
According to the Huffington Post, the bill:
"... would provide legal recognition of gay couples and give them some of the same benefits automatically available to married couples, including the right to visit a sick partner in the hospital, disposition of a deceased loved one's remains and the right to make decisions about a loved one's medical care."
"[It would] ... also protect the rights of religious institutions to define marriage as they choose, and will be available to any couple, same-sex or opposite-sex, in a committed relationship who are: 18 years of age or older, not in an existing marriage or civil union, and are not related. It would take effect July 2011." 3
The bill accumulated 13 co-sponsors. All were Democrats.
The bill was referred to the Rules Committee whose chairperson was Barbara Flynn Currie (D), a cosponsor of the bill.
It was assigned to the Youth and Family Committee, whose chairperson was Greg Harris (D), the author of the bill. The Committee passed the bill on 2009-MAR-05.
2010-APR-28: Rep. Deb Mell announced her engagement on the House floor:
"Two weeks ago I asked Christin Baker to marry me, and she said yes. ... While this is a happy day, and one to celebrate, it is also bittersweet. Life can be tough even on a good day, so I believe if you find that person who you want to spend the rest of your life with, regardless if you're gay or straight it should be honored and celebrated."
"I love my state. I am proud to live here. But my state does not treat me equally. ... After six years of building a life together, committing our lives to each other, I assure you that we are a family."
Her speech in the House (2 min., 28 sec) was recorded with dreadful acoustics:
Several representatives rose to congratulate Ms. Mell and Ms. Baker (6 min, 38 sec):
The couple's plan was to go together to Iowa, get married, 4 and return to Illinois where they would be recognized only as roommates by her home state.
Paul Caprio is the Executive-Director of Family-PAC, a conservative group that describes themselves as the "... leading pro-family conservative political action committee in Illinois." One of their main goals is to prevent any form of recognition of families led by same-sex spouses. Caprio pointed out that the Iowa ceremony would have no legal standing in Illinois. He said
"You have a piece of paper from Iowa and if you want to live in Iowa I guess you are married."
But until a civil unions bill is passed in Illinois, their own state would recognize them only as "legal strangers" -- as people who happen to reside in the same house. Even if it is passed and signed into law, they would not be recognized as a married couple. 5
2010-SEP: Public opinion poll:
A poll conducted by the Chicago Tribune showed that 57% of the adult population favored legalizing civil unions while 32% disapproved. 6 About 11% were undecided or did not answer.