by Shaker Allie Carter, Senior Field Manager for the ACLU of Illinois. She and her partner plan to marry in July of 2010. Whether or not the State of Illinois chooses to recognize their marriage remains to be seen.
There has been so much good news lately for gay and lesbian couples and their families. Every week, another state recognizes marriage equality. The developments in Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire have each come with inspiring stories of leaders and legislators – liberal and conservative alike – taking a stand for traditional American values like fairness and common decency. The court decisions and passage of legislation have rushed by, hardly allowing time to properly celebrate each incredible, hard-won victory before turning to the next. After so many years of heartbreaking referendum battles, it is an amazing time.
In Illinois, we're engaged in a struggle to pass a civil union bill. House Bill 2234, the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act, would enable both same sex and opposite gender couples to access all the state legal rights and protections of marriage, without the word marriage. Gay and lesbian couples and their families would finally be able to make emergency medical decisions for each other, to share pension benefits – and bury their loved ones with dignity.
While this measure is not marriage – I only wish that it were – it is an important step on the road to full equality in the Prairie State. And, equally important, it would bring the legal protections that families in Illinois need right now – that cannot wait for the longer struggle passing a marriage bill will require.
While traveling the state, I have met many people, couples and families desperate for the legal protections of marriage or civil unions. Patrick, a resident of McHenry county, told me the horrifying story of finding his partner of many years dead of a heart attack. Despite their years of commitment and shared lives, the morgue refused to release his partner’s body for nearly two weeks – searching for an estranged sister to grant permission so that Patrick could give his loved one a proper burial.
We have only a few weeks to pass this bill out of the Illinois General Assembly. If you live in Illinois, please take the time to contact your state representative and urge them to support House Bill 2234. You can send a free fax at action.aclu.org/ilcivilunion. And then, contact your friends in Illinois and ask them to do the same. We are within a hairsbreadth of passing this important legislation. Grab your teaspoons, Shakers!