Illinois Civil Unions – Welcomed by Some Religious Leaders

As expected, the Illinois legislation approving civil unions for same sex couples easily passed in the State Senate. The bill now goes to the governor, who has promised to sign. This should take effect from June 1.

What impressed me in the reaction, is that in marked contrast to the familiar claims that this would somehow hurt traditional marriage and harm religion, some religious leaders specifically welcomed it.

Some religious leaders welcomed the legislation. In Chicago, Rabbi Larry Edwards said he’s looking forward to planning celebrations for couples in his Jewish congregation who may decide to form civil unions under Illinois law.

“To those who say it’s a slippery slope and eventually will lead to marriage, I say, ‘I hope so,'” said Edwards of Or Chadash synagogue. “I would like to be on a slippery slope that slides in the direction of justice.”

The Rev. Vernice Thorn, associate pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago said she considers the vote a hopeful sign. “Same-sex legalized marriage is going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.”

-Washington Post

Precisely – not if, but when.

The usual Catholic spokesmen were less enthusiastic.

The prize for the most outlandish commentary must surely go to the Illinois Family Institute, who complained that the supporters of the bill had failed to examine the issues clearly, and had engaged in emotional, sentimental arguments instead.

The Illinois Family Institute said legislators failed to examine the legislation clearly.

“Proponents engaged in embarrassing and maudlin displays of sentimentality intended to emotionally manipulate rather than intellectually persuade their colleagues,” said executive director David E. Smith.

Really? I did not follow the Illinois arguments (on either side), but the opponents of marriage or family equality are the ones who have consistently failed in court to back up their claims with any evidence whatever – as in the California Prop 8 trial, and in adoption cases in both Florida and Arkansas. It’s unlikely that the Illinois opponents found any more persuasive rational arguments against civil unions: there aren’t any. Their case is based on the completely false idea that extending civil the civil benefits of marriage will somehow harm religion and its value for full marriage – and  selective morality.

Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, accused some opponents of hypocrisy.

“I hear adulterers and womanizers and folks cheating on their wives and down-low brothers saying they’re going to vote against this bill. It turns my stomach,” Hendon said. “We know what you do at night, and you know too.”

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Illinois Joins the “Arc of History”: House Approves Civil Unions.

The Catholic Church and NOM in Illinois have failed in their attempt to derail the state’s move towards marriage equality. Yesterday, the House narrowly approved legislation that should see civil unions introduced for same sex couples from early next year. The measure must still pass in the Senate, but early expectations were that passage in the Senate would be easier than in the House. Governor   has already stated that he will sign any civil unions bill that is passed by the legislature. Expect final approval soon.

Sponsoring legislator described yesterday as historic, saying that Illinois had joined the arc of history. He is right.This is hugely symbolic, as the strong opposition from the institutional Catholic Church shows:

Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said the civil unions bill equates to same-sex marriage.

He is wrong of course. This bill is not full marriage, and in any case affects only state level matters, for as long as DOMA remains valid. But is an indicator of things to come. During the past year, the major advances in marriage and family equality have come outside the US, in Europe, South America and Asia. This important breakthrough in Illinois, coming at the end of the month that saw disappointing mid-term election results, is a welcome reminder that even in a difficult political climate, equality continues to advance inexorably, at federal level, at state level, at local level, and even in the Churches, in the US and in the rest of the world. The arc of history is indeed n the side of equality and inclusion.

Now for Australia – watch this space.

From Chicago Tribune:

‘Historic’ civil unions measure passes Illinois House

SPRINGFIELD — Civil unions would be allowed in Illinois beginning next year for same-sex couples under legislation the House passed today.

The 61-52 vote followed spirited debate on whether the action would be tantamount to legalizing gay marriage.

Sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, called on his colleagues to join the arc of history that has gradually eliminated discrimination on social issues ranging from allowing women the right to vote to knocking down numerous social and legal barriers standing in the way of giving rights to people of color.“We have a chance today to make Illinois a more fair state, a more just state, and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law,” Harris said. “We have a chance here, as leaders have had in previous generations, to correct injustice and to move us down the path toward liberty.”The measure now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill passed in committee today.

Rick Garcia, political director of the gay rights organization Equality Illinois, hailed the bill’s passage as historic.

“I think it was telling that as the bill was being discussed the governor came out onto the floor and got a standing ovation,” Garcia said. “We’ve taken a huge step toward fairness. We are thrilled.”