Springfield, IL–(ENEWSPF)– An Illinois House committee passed a bill today that would extend legal recognition and many of the benefits limited to married couples to same sex couples.
The Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act (HB2234) passed the Youth and Family Committee with a vote on Thursday, March 5. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
State Rep. Greg Harris said he expects the Mormon churches have “pulled out all the stops” to fight passage of this bill. “Illinois, it appears, will be the next national battleground after California.”
“We are gratified that the members of the committee understand the importance of recognizing and extending legal protections to Illinois same-sex couples and their families,” said Rick Garcia, director of public policy, Equality Illinois. “These couples make our communities stronger and deserve to have the same protections and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.”
The bill guarantees some of the rights and responsibilities to persons in civil unions that are currently granted to persons in civil marriages. Among those rights are the ability to participate in healthcare visitation and decision making for one’s partner, survivor benefits and the right to make disposition decisions about deceased partner’s remains.
The bill also re-affirms religious institutions’ right not to solemnize a civil union.
“This bill asks for no special rights, only to grant all families access to what most families now are given automatically under the law,” said Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) the chief sponsor of the bill. “We have families in our districts in committed relationships, working hard every day, who when faced with sudden tragedy may desperately need these rights tomorrow or the next day.”
Equality Illinois lined up an impressive list of witnesses to testify before the committee.
The Reverned Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle a Lutheran pastor, mother of three and a Chaplain for her local fire and police departments gave testimony in favor of the bill.
“It seems odd to me that some who tout the idea of family values would push for the defeat of this bill. Their position is incongruent with the nation of family values and seems to lack integrity,” said Pastor Suzanne. “It is both naive and ethnocentric to say that the “family” is mom, dad and children. This is not the reality for so many people — gay or straight and it discounts the experiences of so many people in our communities.
Dr. Randy Georgemiller testified on behalf of the Illinois Psychological Association.
“Heterosexual and homosexual relationships are essentially equivalent in terms of their psychological and social functions and therefore discriminatory policies are unjustified” Georgemiller told the committee. “Government recognition of relationships affords a variety of benefits that are favorable to the couple’s physical, financial, and psychological well being. Just as for heterosexuals, a committed relationship offers a positive sense of self, self worth, and mastery, and provides some insulation from mental and physical disorders.”
Gail Clodfelter of Springfield noted the protections that she and her husband have that are denied to her gay son and his partner.
If passed by the full General Assembly, Illinois will join a handful of states to recognize civil unions joining .
In Illinois, the County of Cook and the cities of Oak Park and Urbana have domestic partner registries, but the registries convey no benefits to registrants. The above jurisdictions, the State of Illinois and Chicago extend domestic partner benefits to their gay employees as do numerous Fortune 500 companies.