Karen Ocamb and Peter Delvecchio
Illinois has joined the ranks of states that permit same-sex civil unions, and Hawaii seems poised to do the same. Illinois’ Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed that state’s new law Jan. 31 before a standing-room-only crowd at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Tribune reports.
“We believe in civil rights, and we believe in civil unions,” Quinn said. “We believe in liberty and justice for all.”
Illinois is the sixth state to recognize civil unions; five states and the District of Columbia permit full-fledged same-sex marriage. The Illinois law takes effect June 1 and will afford gay couples many of the state law rights of marriage, including hospital visitation rights, inheritance and certain employment benefit rights and end-of-life decisionmaking.
“This is critical,” said state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, one of the bill’s sponsors. “This is making sure that at the time of life when people need government to support them, that it will be there and treat one set of neighbors equally as the next set of neighbors.”
Meanwhile, the Hawaii state Senate passed a civil unions measure Jan. 28, The Advocate reports. The bill is essentially identical to one passed by both houses of Hawaii’s legislature in 2010. Then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, vetoed the bill. Lingle, however, left office last year under Hawaii’s term limits law, and was replaced in the November 2010 elections by Democrat Neil Abercrombie. Abercrombie, a supporter of civil unions, is expected to sign the bill. The measure will now go to the Hawaii House, which is expected to pass either the Senate bill or one of several others under consideration there.
The bill would afford same-sex couples all the rights and obligations of marriage under Hawaii law, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.