Today the Illinois Senate passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act with a vote of 32 to 24. This comes on the heels of the Illinois House voting 61-52 on Tuesday in favor of civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Having passed in both chambers, the legislation now moves to the desk of Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Once he does, civil unions will be available to Illinois gay and lesbian couples effective July 1, 2011.
When civil unions are available in Illinois, gay and lesbian couples will have access to crucial protections that were previously denied them, such as emergency medical decision making, hospital visitation, inheritance rights and others.
"This is a historic moment for our state, and we would not have been able to get here without the extraordinary leadership of the bill's chief sponsors, State Representative Greg Harris and State Senator David Koehler," said Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of Equality Illinois, in an e-mail to constituents.
He continued, "Many of our partner organizations and community leaders devoted endless energy to helping pass this bill. Clergy all around Illinois educated their congregations and even prayed for elected officials to understand the urgency of the protection that civil unions offer. And our supporters from every corner of the state participated by contacting lawmakers, canvassing, phonebanking, writing letters and making contributions. This is your victory too."
GLAAD urges the media to report on the significance of the passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. We congratulate Equality Illinois and all those who worked with state lawmakers to see the bill pass successfully in both the house and the senate, and we look forward to Gov. Quinn signing the bill into law.
**For the media: Equality Illinois will be holding a press conference tomorrow, Thursday, December 2nd at 2:00 p.m. The press conference will be held at the James Thompson Center, located at 100 West Randolph Street in Chicago.**
The mission of Equality Illinois is to secure, protect and defend equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Illinois. Equality Illinois envisions a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.