Illinois marks first anniversary of civil union law

One year ago today, a civil union law went into effect in the state of Illinois. Same-sex couples have now been able to apply for and receive civil unions - which afford couples some of the protections of marriage - for a full year. Despite the advancement that the civil union law represents in the state, it remains clear that the law is no substitution for the full freedom to marry. 

That's why Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois have filed a lawsuit on behalf of 25 same-sex couples who were denied their applications for a marriage license. The lawsuits, announced on Wednesday, call for a reassessment of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which explicitly declares that "a marriage between two individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of the State."

Lambda Legal has released a series of videos featuring many of the couples represented in the lawsuit. The video below features LaKeesha Harris and Janean Watkins, who have been together for 11 years and are raising six children in their home in Chicago. LaKeesha and Janean express frustration over the fact that many people do not understand what a civil union is, and that their civil union is viewed as a step below - something less than - a marriage. 

"A civil union is not enough because we're worth more," Janean says in the video. "We're just as important as every other couple, we're just as important as every other family."

You can sign Lambda Legal's pledge to support the freedom to marry in Illinois. Each signature on the pledge stands for someone who wants to tell Illinois that it's time to fully recognize the commitment and love that couples like LaKeesha and Janean share.

"The time is not two years from now, the time is not ten months from now," LaKeesha says in the video. "I don't want to be a second-class citizen for another ten minutes. So yes, the time is now for marriage equality."