Today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a civil union bill into law in front of a large crowd of supporters. It's an encouraging achievement – but as Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson and Illinois leaders point out, there is still more work to be done.
“Freedom to Marry applauds Governor Quinn and the Illinois legislature for passing and signing this important recognition of gay and lesbian couples and taking a step toward fairness for Illinois families," Wolfson said. "Civil union is a way of providing loving and committed couples with significant responsibilities and protections – of particular importance in these difficult economic times. Now the legislature and governor should finish the job."
Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel said that while the civil union law is a "landmark," he will press the legislature to do more. "The march goes on to marriage," he said.
State Representative Deb Mell struck a similar tone. "I don't want to sound ungrateful – I'm thrilled that our state will have civil unions for our same-sex couples," she said. "I think Illinois is definitely ready – we don't like discrimination."
Rep. Mell, who is gay, is planning on travelling to Iowa later this year to marry her fiancé. Commenting on the importance of marriage in society, Rep. Mell said, "I want to call her my wife."
Wolfson also stressed the differences between civil union and marriage. "Time and again states that have created civil union as a means of both giving and withholding – providing select legal protections while withholding the freedom to marry and all its meaning – have found that civil union falls far short of marriage with all its tangible and intangible significance in our lives. Many of those states – Connecticut, New Hampshire, and even Vermont, which first created civil union – have since pushed past civil union to marriage, recognizing the inadequacy and unfairness of a separate and unequal status. There is no reason to have two lines at the clerk’s office when we can all share in the same responsibilities, same respect, and same rules of civil marriage.”