The Illinois General Assembly is expected to approve a measure that would legalize civil unions, according to Rick Garcia, political director for Equality Illinois. Garcia is "absolutely" expecting the full state House and the Senate to pass a civil union measure either today or tomorrow, and the bill has the support of Governor Pat Quinn.
The House Youth and Family Committee, chaired by Representative Greg Harris, who's gay, intends to attach an amendment legalizing civil unions to a "shell bill" that's already been approved by the Senate, Garcia said. If the full House votes in favor of the legislation, the bill would be sent to the full Senate within hours for a vote of concurrence.
Garcia said Illinois lawmakers often use "shell bills" to pass legislation expediently. He said it's necessary to legalize civil unions through this method because the legislative session ends May 30 and the approach limits the time that opponents of civil unions can lobby lawmakers.
"We get it out of the House and then senators only have a few hours of being beat up by our opponents rather than three days or a long weekend," he said. "Since there is a perfectly legitimate way of doing it in one day, that's what we're going to do."
Should the measure become law, both gay and straight couples could enter into civil unions. As there's no explicit language regarding an effective date, couples could start entering into civil unions 30 days after the bill is signed into law. The measure does contain language noting that the establishment of civil unions would not interfere with the practices of any religious group and that any religious institution could decide for itself whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union.
Good for you, Illinois. Now, take the full step, the next step, for full marriage equality.