An Illinois House committee today narrowly passed legislation to allow civil unions among same sex couples.
House Bill 1826 is sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who also introduced legislation this year to permit same-sex marriages. Harris said he decided to pursue civil unions after hearing concerns about the marriage bill from colleagues in the General Assembly.
The legislation would create a statute separate from the state's marriage law, but would provide partners in a civil union with nearly all of the same benefits as married couples, Harris said. Those would include participating in health care decisions for the partner, rights in determining the welfare of non-adopted children, division of property upon dissolution and decisions on the remains of a deceased partner.
The bill would be "holding all partners in a civil union to same same high expectations as partners in a marriage," Harris said during testimony on the bill.Opponents said the bill essentially would permit same-sex marriages without calling them that and would pave the way for eventual legalization of those marriages.
The House Human Rights Committee passed the bill on a 5-4 vote. It now goes to the full House. To become law, it must pass there and in the Senate and be signed by the governor.
Both the Illinois House and Senate are overwhelmingly Democratic, although there are a handful of Republicans in both chambers who generally suppport equality for gays and lesbians. If you watch what's happening, soon it will be the case that most of the larger, progressive states will offer some form of legal recognition to same-sex couples. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) is the only openly gay member of the Illinois legislature.