Friday, December 03, 2010

We interrupt our doom and gloom...

...for some good news.

The Illinois legislature has passed a bill establishing civil unions in the state. It passed the House on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday. Despite the no-surprise opposition from the Catholic church, Governor Pat Quinn, who is Catholic, announced his intention to have a bill-signing ceremony early in the new year. He praised the bill and called its passage "historic."

The bill makes "marriage" and "civil union" essentially identical for all legal purposes in Illinois, including recognizing same-sex civil unions and marriages performed in other states as civil unions in Illinois.

This does not, of course and unhappily, apply to any federal benefits because the right-wing nutbags who wield too much power there have made legal recognition of same-sex couples illegal. But that is nothing new.

One interesting and I think amusing little sidebar is that the bill also allows straight couples to enter a civil union rather than a marriage. One possible reason would be the example of a couple who would not qualify for some federal benefit because of their combined income but who would be eligible as individuals. By having a civil union, they obtain the benefits of marriage at a state level but are still regarded as single - and thus eligible for the benefit - at the federal level.

Opponents of the measure - naturally - claimed it will lead to the imagined horrors of same-sex marriage. "Think of the children!" is the cry.

Actually, we have thought of the children and those who grow up in same-sex households do just as well as those brought up in opposite-sex ones, thank you very much. And marriage is yes, the goal. As I put it in a discussion of "civil union" versus "marriage" in the wake of the Massachusetts court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in 2003:
My concern is that as long as we use different terms, there will always be the notion that one ("marriage") is somehow better, superior, to the other ("civil union"). "Oh, well, we're married, you see. You just have one of those civil union things." It implies a judgment.

It's been nearly 50 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that "separate but equal" is actually "inherently unequal." I do not want to see us repeat that mistake [of endorsing "separate but equal"] in the case of same-sex marriages (yes, marriages). As long as we allow different terms, we allow the perception - and thus justify the practice - of actual difference.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley gets that: He applauded passage of the civil union bill but urged lawmakers to "move faster" into "this new century" and legalize gay marriage. So there is hope that those who opposed the bill are correct that it's a step on the road to recognition of same-sex marriage.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled gloom and doom.

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