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Chicago Sun-Times Editorial

Saturday, 7 April 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Chicago Sun-Times Editorial

It’s time to authorize civil unions in Illinois Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times March 27, 2007 The path to civil unions in Illinois faces some rough spots. It’s not something conservatives want to budge on. But with an Illinois House committee’s approval last week of legislation that would allow such unions in this state, same-sex couples are a step closer to joining those in four other states who enjoy the same legal benefits as married couples — including such basics as the right to inherit property, adopt or be granted custody of children and visit loved ones in the hospital. For the bill to become law, it must be approved by the full House — a vote its sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), says he’ll call this spring. It would then have to be approved by the Senate and Gov. Blagojevich. Not only is there no reason Illinois shouldn’t be added to those states that have enacted similar laws, there’s also every reason it should. For all the charged rhetoric surrounding the issue — “Government shouldn’t recognize a lifestyle that’s been considered immoral,” argues David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute — civil unions are a reasonable and unthreatening compromise. As reflected in the large number of other states approving or about to approve them, their time has come. They’re not threatening, or shouldn’t be, because they don’t redefine or detract from traditional marriage. For those who care, Illinois has a law that bars it from recognizing gay marriage. There may come a time when Illinois joins Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is now legal, and other states that end up legalizing it. Gay advocacy groups here, while welcoming civil union legislation, will continue doing all they can to press the case for gay marriage. But that will come about only if it’s what the majority of people in the state want. Right now, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Still, a campaign to put a referendum on last year’s ballot asking voters whether marriage should be defined as a union between “one man and one woman” failed. Harris’ determination to fight for the “fully equal term” of civil marriage in his original bill, gave way to the less divisive language of civil union. Things have always moved slowly on this political front in Illinois, which in inserting sexual orientation language into anti-discrimination laws last year did so long after Chicago and Cook County had done so. “Illinois views same-sex couples, some together for decades, as strangers under the law,” said Jim Bennett, director of the gay advocacy group Lambda Legal’s Midwest chapter. You don’t have to be a proponent of gay marriage to recognize how wrong that is. Couples should be allowed to care for each other no matter what their sexual orientation — not in opposition to the law, but with its full support.

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