"Same-sex couples in Illinois, many together for decades, will finally have the legal protections to take care of each other and their children," said Jim Bennett, Regional Director of Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. "Same-sex couples and their families faced a range of barriers to things that other couples take for granted, including spousal health benefits and hospital visitation—the goal of this law is to correct those problems. While all couples deserve the right to marry, all of us in the Land of Lincoln can be proud of this important step forward."
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, first introduced by Representative Greg Harris in March 2007, and in the Illinois Senate by Senator David Koehler, passed 61-52 in the House on Tuesday and 32-24 in the Senate today. The new law includes provisions for hospital visitation and healthcare decision making.
Lambda Legal's staff provided extensive legal analysis and drafting assistance for the Act approved today, as well as public education and legislative advocacy pressing for its passage.
"We congratulate and thank the bill's sponsor Representative Greg Harris, along with Representatives Feigenholtz, Osterman, Currie, Fritchey, Howard and Mell, in the house and bill sponsor Senator David Koehler, along with Senators Steans, Cullerton and retired Senator Carol Ronen in the Senate for their extraordinary leadership in making today's historic victory a reality. It's a great day for Illinois and other leaders in the in the legislature who have taken this step today," added Bennett.
The landmark vote reflects public opinion in Illinois that same-sex couples need recognition under the law. An October 2010 poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute of likely Illinois voters shows 67.5 percent approve of civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples.
"I've been with my partner for 13 years," said Chicago Resident Angelica Lopez. "The possibility of a Civil Union gives my partner and my child a security that wasn't there before."
Below is a statement from Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, on today’s passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom Protections and Civil Unions Act: