I have written about previous attempts to enact civil union/marriage equality laws in Illinois here and here. As I discussed earlier, Illinois' "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,"contains a (unnecessary and redundant) provision telling religious groups they don't have to solemnize civil unions if they don't want to:
"Nothing in this Act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body. Any religious body, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group is free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union."
While the intent of this language seems to be to make sure religious groups know they don't have to perform same-sex ceremonies, I fear that the first sentence is incredibly broad and could potentially allow religious institutions to discriminate against same-sex couples with respect to employment benefits, hiring, and termination. We'll see.
Practically, the bill, which applies to both same-sex and different-sex partners, entitles civilly unioned partners to:
"the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law."
The bill also provides that civil unions and marriages between same-sex couples that are legally recognized in other states will be recognized in Illinois.
I'm grateful that the state rights, benefits, and privileges of marriage will now be available to same-sex couples, but of course, a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act would be an even more significant step in the right direction as that would enable same-sex couples to receive federal benefits as well.
And, of course, there's the whole "separate but equal" issue, which this video highlights well. The take-away line: "Civil unions: Not good enough for you. Not good enough for your gay cousin."