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

Chicagoist's Top 11 for 2011: Civil Unions Become Reality

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 20, 2011 11:00PM

Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

"We believe in civil rights, and we believe in civil unions. We believe in liberty and justice for all."

That's what Gov. Pat Quinn said when he signed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act into law Jan. 31. The legislation, which granted same sex couples and unmarried straight couples the same protections under law as married couples, had been a long time coming and its passage in Springfield two months prior seemed to take opponents, like Cardinal Francis George, by surprise.

When the law went into effect June 1, couples lined up across the state to apply for a civil union license. Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris arrived at the Cook County Office of Vital Records at midnight so that they could be the first to apply for and receive a civil union license. The joy in their faces was magnified untold times by the couples who filled Millennium Park the following day to participate in "Unions in the Park," which also drew your garden variety bigots. By the end of June, over 1,600 couples applied for civil union licenses in Illinois.

Another ramification of the Civil Unions Law was the dissolution of the relationship between Catholic Charities in Illinois and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Catholic Charities found themselves in the unique position of arguing that the law, which required them to provide adoption and foster care to same sex and unmarried straight couples, was a violation of their religious freedom. Catholic Charities later filed injunctions to allow them to continue denying couples in civil unions the right to adopt from them and, when the state informed them their services would no longer be needed, Catholic Charities filed another injunction to continue foster care services.

Eventually, a Sangamon County judge ruled against Catholic Charities and the group dropped its lawsuit with the state.