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Gov's Arrest Derails Civil Unions Bill

By Hunter Clauss in News on Dec 10, 2008 10:35PM

Gov_Blago_poses_for_pic.jpgThe arrest of Governor Rod Blagojevich yesterday may have been the final nail in the coffin for a proposal to allow civil unions between same-sex couples in Illinois. The bill, the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Unions Act, was first introduced in February of 2007 and has been stalled in the state legislature ever since. Now time is running out for the bill, as the current General Assembly will expire at the end of the year. With only two remaining legislative days left, some political watchers say it is unlikely that the proposal will gain traction as the state tackles a growing budget crisis that so far includes a $2 billion deficit.

The workload in Springfield may become even heavier thanks to yesterday’s bombshell charges against the Governor. Top lawmakers have indicated they are pursuing a plan to take away Blagojevich’s right to appoint a replacement to President-Elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat, which they hope to fill with a special election. Plus, there’s also the possibility of impeachment hearings if Blagojevich refuses to resign. State Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored the Civil Unions Act, says the General Assembly will have to prioritize its objectives in light of the criminal complaint against Blagojevich. “Everything has been trumped by what happened,” he told the Trib. “Our focus now is how will the state keep functioning.”

If passed, the Civil Unions Act would have granted same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples such rights as hospital visitation, probate rights and decisions on healthcare and the handling of a deceased partner’s remains. But the bill’s likelihood of passing the General Assembly was questionable. Rick Garcia, political director of Equality Illinois, says the Civil Unions Act was shy a few votes from the number needed. The upside, however, is that Blagojevich might not be at next year’s Pride Parade depending on how things pan out.

Photo taken from the Gay Liberation Network.