Reaching equality for Illinois

By SpencerRoush

Gay couples in Illinois won’t have to wade through their existence with little to no government recognition of their partnership because of a piece of legislation passed by the state Senate involving civil unions on Nov. 30.

While granting civil unions isn’t the same as the status symbol of a marriage socially or economically, it’s a start.  The passage of this bill will also affect a large number of LGBTQ Columbia students who would rather choose this than not receive any government partnership recognition.

Illinois has been behind the curve with LGBTQ rights activists trying to breach the equal rights cusp for decades,  and now Illinois is almost up to speed.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature, which shouldn’t be an issue if he keeps his campaign promises to support it. Quinn is supposed to sign the bill early next year. However, he does not support gay marriage, which I’m sure will be the next endeavor LGBTQ rights activists will tackle.

There are a few major differences between a civil union and a marriage. Essentially, civil unions do not give partners federal rights, like filing joint tax returns or acquiring Social Security survivor’s benefits, but they do give basic state-level rights to a spouse’s insurance benefits and hospital visitations, among others.

What makes this bill unique from other states’ laws regarding civil unions is it reaches heterosexual couples as well. So, not only can same-sex couples receive some marriage benefits without the certificate, but everyone can. This may be for insurance purposes or because some think the marriage status symbol is a sham and impedes the real meaning of a relationship in the first place.

Whatever the reason may be for a civil union, this bill successfully gives far-reaching rights and equality to all who seek an alternative to marriage, not just to those who are currently suppressed under current marriage laws. This is a prime example of what equality is and what lawmakers should strive for in future legislation.

Of course, there are people opposing the civil union milestone.

But I can think of quite a few heterosexual couples who probably shouldn’t have dated, let alone have gotten married. If we give these couples a right to bind themselves by law, even if their relationship is rocky, why can’t we at least grant same-sex couples a civil union option?

The government doesn’t decide which straight couples can wed or have a civil union, and if those who oppose this civil union legislation were told by the government they couldn’t be recognized as a legal partnership, I’m sure they wouldn’t consider this the land of the free anymore either and protests would ensue.

Let’s try to get the government out of our bedroom and back to making decisions for the “greater good” of all, not just for the people who fit within a certain criteria.