Guest Author - Jason P. Ruel
The House of Representatives for the State of Illinois has a bill before them for consideration. The bill has a name. It is called “The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.” Why is it important and why should you care? Simply: Illinois could become the first state of the Midwest, known for its conservative, family-oriented, behind-the-times, bible conscience, a tad backwards, and full of cows, pigs, and children of the corn, to recognize the sanctity of the relationship between two people who love each other and wish to have the same legal recognitions and rights that a “marriage” would provide. Even more simply, Illinois could become the third state to allow GLBT Civil Unions.
The bill, if it becomes law, would extend to gays and lesbians of the state the same basic legal protections of “marriage” by recognizing a civil union, and affording all the protections and responsibilities of “marriage” without changing Illinois' marriage laws. It is a simple, but highly effective solution between the fighting factions of the religious right and liberal left.
The ACLU says that, “The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act also assures that no religious denomination is compelled by state government to recognize or solemnize a relationship that falls outside of their religious tradition. While important religious values are protected, the legislation insures that gay and lesbian couples and their families are allowed to participate in health care decisions, dispose of the bodily remains of a deceased loved one and enjoy pension benefits necessary to insure that a family remains intact after the loss of a parent.“
This is an important step in getting equal protection under the law for GLBT persons not only in Illinois, but the rest of the country. If a state like Illinois, which took 30 years to finally pass it’s hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws (effective 1-1-2007), can pass such a law that not only protects the religious institution, but also the rights of all glbt persons, then the rest of the country will have to seriously consider doing the same thing. While the civil unions would not be recognized by the federal government, they would be recognized by the states that allow civil unions and marriages between people of the same sex. Also, Canada and other countries that have legal recognition of gays and lesbians marriages or civil unions would also recognize this piece of paper which is simply an outward expression of an inward emotion and connection.
Now, we only sit and wait to see what the Illinois Legislature will do.
Update: Action has taken place on this bill and after many different amendments and so forth, on November 30, 2007 the Final Action Deadline was Extended to January 10, 2008.
Jason P. Ruel
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbian Editor