The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Civil Union Bill Heads to the General Assembly

By Kevin Robinson in News on Mar 6, 2009 5:00PM

Photo by RUNFAR

House Bill 2234, known as The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, made it out of committee this week, and will now go before the full General Assembly for debate. The bill, which guarantees some of the rights and responsibilities to persons in civil unions that are currently granted to persons in civil marriages, including hospital visitation, the right to make decisions about a partners medical care, and survivors benefits. The bill gives religious institutions the right not to solemnize civil unions. HB 2234 does not legalize gay marriage.

“We are gratified that the members of the committee understand the importance of recognizing and extending legal protections to Illinois same-sex couples and their families,” Rick Garcia, director of public policy for Equality Illinois. “These couples make our communities stronger and deserve to have the same protections and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.” The legislation replaces an earlier civil unions bill, which also made it out of committee, but died at the end of the last legislative session, when Rod Blagojevich was impeached.

A brouhaha erupted around the legislation earlier this week when an email purportedly from a member of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple 3rd Ward of the Church of Latter Day Saints surfaced on the BoxTurtle Bulletin. The email claimed, among other things, that the bill would "empower the public schools to begin teaching this lifestyle to our young children regardless of parental requests otherwise. It will also create grounds for rewriting all social mores.... [W]hile the bill legalizes civil unions, it will be used in the courts to show discrimination and will ultimately lead to court mandated same-sex marriages," and urged church members to contact their "state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill." A later email from temple Bishop Chris Church says that while members are free to act as they choose, "the church does not take any position in relation to these issues."

State Representative Greg Harris, sponsor of the bill said that his office has received calls, but that they were mostly not from constituents. "This bill asks for no special rights, only to grant all families access to what most families now are given automatically under the law," Harris said.