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A Victory for Gay Rights: Illinois House Committee Approves Civil Unions

Jill Garvey • Mar 13, 2009

A bill recognizing same-sex civil unions was approved by the Illinois House Human Services Committee for a full House vote under the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. If it passes in the Illinois House it would be a fitting step forward for a state with the Lincoln legacy to uphold.

Religious groups opposed to expanded rights for gay couples are already mobilizing however. The question is, will Illinois’ gay rights activists be blindsided the way Californians were?

Groups, such as Catholic Conference of Illinois and the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), are going to wage a fierce fight. On Wednesday LDS sent out an email from their website urging recipients to

“help defeat this bill, please call your state representative and state senator and ask that they support traditional marriage and vote against the civil unions bill.”

Even though they lost this round, LDS will only intensify their efforts in hopes of having the same success here as they did in California.

The LGBT community and other civil rights advocates need to unify now on the issue and begin outreach to neutral audiences. I believe it is very possible to eventually have same-sex marriage legalized in Illinois if progressive groups rally hard against bigoted opposition. While some churches merely wish have the option to decline the recognition of same-sex unions, others are seeking to defeat all legal rights to same-sex couples. Illinois could become a model for tolerance, but only if the threat from anti-gay forces is taken seriously. The LGBT community needs to reach out for help on this issue and the rest of us need to stand with them.

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