No more excuses—it’s time to OK civil unions

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"With a nasty election finally behind us, it's time for Illinois politicians to embrace a little love and civility.

"And lucky for us, state legislators will get the chance as soon as next week.

"A civil union bill for same-sex couples will likely face a vote during the state Legislature's brief veto session that begins on Tuesday.

"It's time, finally, to pass a bill that opens the door to equal treatment for our gay neighbors and friends.

"This page has long supported the freedom to marry as the best and most just option for same-sex couples in Illinois, but state legislators are not ready.

"In the meantime, ...the civil union bill would give same-sex couples many of the same benefits available to married couples, including the right to visit a partner in the hospital, to inherit a partner's estate and to make medical decisions for a sick partner. These rights also would be granted to heterosexual couples.

"Still out of reach for gay couples in Illinois would be federal rights afforded to married couples, such as access to a partner's Social Security and pension benefits, joint tax filings and the right to take leave from a job to care for an ill spouse. To get these rights, Illinois must pass a marriage equality law and, most importantly, the federal government must repeal the [so-called] Defense of Marriage Act -- legislative efforts supported by this page.

"A civil union law, though, would be an important start, potentially putting Illinois on the path to marriage equality for same-sex couples. Of the five states plus D.C. that now honor the freedom to marry, four began with civil union laws.

"Even if Illinois goes no further than civil unions, we'd still have a good law on our books -- one that would respect the rights of gay couples and those of the state's religious institutions. This bill explicitly says no religious institution would be required to officiate a civil union. That concept is already spelled out in the U.S. Constitution but the bill's drafters added it for good measure.

"Polls show the majority of Illinoisans are ready for a civil union bill.

"It's no longer considered radical or even extreme.

"For many, it's simply another way to support the committed, loving couples in our midst."

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