Phonebanking for civil unions in IL

Early last week before Thanksgiving, 16 HRC interns and volunteers were phonebanking tirelessly out of HRC’s headquarters for families in Illinois. Their work paid off. Civil unions passed the Illinois legislature yesterday.

Over two nights, our volunteers made nearly 1,500 phone calls into the districts of key Illinois House members. We directly transferred several dozen civil union supporters to their state House members, so that these constituents could voice their support for this important bill. In addition, we reached out to more than 500 people to provide them with contact information for their state House member, and encouraged them to leave a message in support of the civil unions bill.

The Illinois House passed the bill, SB 1716, by a slim margin of 61-52, and the Illinois Senate followed suit, passing the bill with a 32-24 vote. The bill will now head to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the legislation into law.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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The Roman Catholic Church indulges in moral relativism on civil unions

The opposition of the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy to marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is legendary.  Not only does the Catholic Church lobby for anti-equality constitutional amendments and against marriage equality laws, it has been known to fundraise for those efforts and circulate referendum petitions during Holy Mass while the priest gives a homily on obedience.

Not satisfied with undermining marriage equality, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States also tries to undermine passage of civil union and domestic partnership laws by alleging that those second-class legal constructs somehow erode the “sanctity” of civil marriage for heterosexuals.  Civil unions are “an assault on the sacrament and institution of marriage and the family” is how the Diocese of Bridgeport put it.

In light of all that, it is tempting to assume it was a foregone conclusion that the Illinois Catholic Conference would take a proactive position in opposition to the Illinois civil unions bill and bemoan the bill’s passage after the fact.  But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion at all, because in actuality the Roman Catholic Church indulges in moral relativism where civil unions and domestic partnerships are concerned.
Washington

In 2009 the Washington State Catholic Conference sent one man to a few legislative committees to quietly testify against SB 5688, the Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill of 2009.  The man was not accompanied by supporters or sign-wavers.  

After the law passed, WSCC posted an unsigned statement on their main web page in support of a referendum aimed at repealing it.  The posting was made with no fanfare and beyond these acts the Catholic Church machine remained silent.  Unlike in other states, Catholic parishoners were not rallied at church to sign the referendum petition, donate to the anti-equality campaign or vote a particular way.

Apparently the Catholic Church, like most of its religious-right colleagues in Washington, saw this particular referendum as a non-starter and thus gave it lip service but no solid backing.  Indeed, Chief of Staff Siler of the Yakima Diocese stated that “our resources are limited, and we think the more important issue will be the question of gay marriage”.  (Curious statement, given that the Catholic Church stated that the battle over the domestic partnership law was about marriage.)

Undoubtedly the Catholic Church’s minimal participation in the domestic partnership debate was also with an eye towards keeping people in the pews.  Washington has a small Roman Catholic population, many of whom live in the Puget Sound region which heavily supports LGBT equality and sends pro-equality legislators to the state legislature.

Thus to all appearances the Catholic Church acted in Washington based on political and pragmatic calculations rather than standing on principle and boldly defending heterosexual-only marriage from what they said they considered a true threat.

New Jersey

The Catholic Conference of Illinois’ publication “Promoting Civil Unions to Undermine Marriage” was intended to explain their anti-civil union position but ironically the title can truthfully be read to mean that the Catholic Church in fact promotes civil unions when doing so might undermine marriage equality legislation.

On December 7, 2009 the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act“, a marriage equality bill (S1967).  Committee chair Senator Paul Sarlo and Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference had the following exchange (emphasis added):

SENATOR SARLO:  Thank you, Mr. Brannigan.

I have one question.  Does the Catholic Church support–  We understand there’s some potential — there’s loopholes in the Civil Union law — the current Civil Union law — that prevents same-sex couples from having the same rights as heterosexual couples.  Does the Catholic Church support this Legislature amending the Civil Union law to close up every possible loophole?

MR. BRANNIGAN:  Yes.  The Catholic Church is–  Within a week after the Civil Union Act was passed, I issued a memorandum to all of our institutions.  As a matter of fact, when Seton Hall University then did a global e-mail to all employees notifying them that they should check with their health benefits because now the University was offering benefits to same-sex couples — and the University noted myself as the author of the direction — there was — I received quite a few calls from some individuals who didn’t agree with that position.  But we do support the Civil Union Act.

This is a complete reversal from the New Jersey Catholic Conference’s opposition in 2006 when the New Jersey Legislature was working to pass the civil union law.  By 2009 however the political landscape had changed and the Legislature was considering a marriage equality law.  It seems clear that under those circumstances the Catholic Church chose to cut its losses and say it supported civil unions so it could declare that marriage equality was not necessary.  As happened in Washington state, the Catholic Church in New Jersey walked away from principle after making a political calculation.

Maine

In 2009 the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland lent its public affairs director Mark Mutty to Stand for Marriage Maine to lead the marriage equality law ballot repeal effort.  During a debate on the referendum, Mutty strongly endorsed civil unions:

However, it is totally unnecessary for marriage to be redefined in order for them to have those benefits. There are alternatives, and those alternatives I think we’re all familiar with, enhanced domestic partner legislation, and other like arrangements can be made that do not fundamentally change the definition of marriage but yet provides those same benefits that they seek. And I fail to see how those benefits would not be available through these alternative arrangements as well as they would through marriage and I think that is the ultimate compromise…

…and again, enhanced domestic partnership legislation, a number of other options, civil unions is certainly an option that will provide all those same benefits, yet recognize that the two relationships are fundamentally if nothing else biologically very different.

Of course this was contrary to the position of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and presumably Mutty’s boss Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland: “We strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage – by naming them marriage, civil unions, or by other means.”

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales openly supports civil partnerships despite pointed rebukes from Pope Benedict.  ”Civil partnerships are precisely what they say they are. They’re not gay marriages or lesbian marriages. They’re simply a legal arrangement between two people so that they can pass on property and other rights in which they were discriminated against before,” said Bishop of Nottingham Malcolm McMahon earlier this year.  His view was supported recently by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales who said “We did not oppose gay civil partnerships. We recognized that in English law there might be a case for those.”

Despite many statements to the contrary, the Catholic Church clearly doesn’t believe that civil unions and domestic partnerships are intrinsic threats to heterosexual-only marriages or they would be fighting them hard at every turn rather than quietly ducking the issue (Washington) or outright endorsing civil unions (New Jersey, Maine and United Kingdom).  Call it pragmatism, call it moral relativism, either way the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t always practice what it preaches on the “assault to the sacrament” that allegedly is civil unions.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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IL Sen. Rickey Hendon’s Awesome Bullshit Call On Every Anti-Gay Lawmaker Who Voted Against Civil Unions

One thing in this post is not like the other. Above, Illinois State Sen. Rickey Hendon, on the chamber's open floor, slamming his fellow lawmakers for refusing to support the state's civil unions bill, which passed today. "It's the right thing to do," says Hendon, who fingers his colleagues guilty of "hypocrisy" that's "dripping in this chamber right now" by adulterers and closeted gays. Below, State Sen. Rev. James Meeks, who's running for Chicago mayor, admitting he's among those deserving of such criticism. Asked whether he thinks his "no" vote on the bill will "hurt your run for mayor among gay and lesbian voters," Meeks responded, "I don't know." Uh, I DO.

CONTINUED »


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Illinois Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill, On To Governor

Today the Illinois Senate on passed a civil unions bill by a 32-24 vote. The vote comes just days after the House passed the same bill 61-52. The bill now goes to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has  been a vocal supporter of the bill and is expected to sign the it into law

The bill, introduced by Rep. Greg Harris and passed by both the House and Senate, would permit both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under Illinois law that are granted to spouses.  The bill, however, does not provide for same-sex marriages.

In addition to Illinois, ten states plus Washington, D.C. offer state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples.  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. provide committee LGBT couples the freedom to marry.  New York and Maryland recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Five other states—California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington —provide same-sex couples with civil unions or domestic partnerships.

It is important to recognize that despite victories such as this,  same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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IL Senate joins state House in passing civil unions, off to Gov now

And the governor has said he’ll sign it.

Civil unions for same-sex couples would be allowed in Illinois under historic legislation the state Senate swiftly sent Wednesday to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the measure.

The bill would give gay couples the chance to enjoy several of the same rights as married couples, ranging from legal rights on probate matters to visiting a partner in a hospital that won’t allow anyone but relatives into a patient’s room.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Illinois House just passed civil unions legislation

The Illinois House of Representatives, by a vote of 61 – 52, just passed an amendment to SB 1716, titled the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. The bill will legalize same-sex civil unions in the state.

After the legislation passes in the Senate (and it should), the newly reelected Governor, Pat Quinn, will sign the bill (Opposition to civil unions is one reason the Republican, Bill Brady, lost in November.) Governor Quinn actually showed up at the debate and was recognized.

Background via ChicagoPride.com:

SB 1716, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act needs 60 votes to pashttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=281630668487321358#s in the House. Supporters believe they have the necessary votes to pass the bill out of the House and on to the Senate, where quick passage is expected.

Tuesday afternoon, an Illinois Senate committee advanced its version of the civil unions bill by a 6-2 margin. The upper chamber on the Senate would have to approve the legislation if it clears the House.

The Senate should pass the legislation, possibly as soon as tomorrow.

Congrats, Illinois. You’re creating rights for people.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Illinois House of Representatives Passes Civil Unions Bill

Earlier this evening by a vote of 62-51 and with supportive Governor Quinn on the floor, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a civil unions bill.  The bill would permit both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under Illinois law that are granted to spouses.

If the legislation passes the Senate and is enacted into law, couples who enter into a civil union will not receive any rights or benefits under federal law. Illinois does not permit same-sex couples to marry.

Civil Unions are not marriage, but they provide important benefits and are step in the right direction.

HRC congratulates Illinois’ House of Representatives as well as Equality Illinois for their work in ensuring that all couples and all families receive basic rights and protections.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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BREAKING: Illinois House just passed civil unions bill

Update: Just as I posted this diary, the news came out that the IL House of Representatives has passed the civil unions law!  On the the Senate!  Gov. Patrick Quinn has promised to sign the bill into law.

From Equality Illinois:

We did it! The Illinois House of Representatives passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act with a vote of 61 to 52!

However, the Illinois Senate has yet to vote on the civil union bill and has until Thursday, December 2nd to do so. We are almost there but need your help to make this bill a reality. Please:

1. Call your Senator NOW and tell him/her to pass SB 1716 (If you do not know who your legislator is, you can look him/her up here).

2. Support our aggressive advocacy efforts with a contribution. Not only do we still need to pass the bill through the State Senate, but we will then need to protect the law from attempts to repeal it. We can only succeed with your support. Please donate now.

We are extremely thankful to State Representative Greg Harris, chief sponsor of the bill, for his extraordinary leadership on this issue. Thank you for supporting us and we will keep you posted on the status of this historic bill.

Sincerely,

Bernard Cherkasov

Chief Executive Officer


As we speak, a civil unions bill is up for debate and vote in the Illinois House of Representatives.  
Openly gay Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who co-sponsored SB 1716, started his opening statement at 5:17 p.m on Tuesday. “Once in every generation,” he said, “legislatures across the country have a chance to advance the cause of liberty and justice for all.”

SB 1716, the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act needs 60 votes to pass in the House. Supporters believe they have the necessary votes to pass the bill out of the House and on to the Senate, where quick passage is expected.

Tuesday afternoon, an Illinois Senate committee advanced its version of the civil unions bill by a 6-2 margin. The upper chamber on the Senate would have to approve the legislation if it clears the House.

According to the article above, a poll last month showed that 67.5% of likely Illinois voters approve of civil unions or marriage for same sex couples while only 26.5% oppose any recognition.

If the legislation passes, Illinois will join California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington as the latest state to offer full-scale Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships.  Marriage equality is the law of the land in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C..

Fingers crossed for the Land of Lincoln!

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Illinois Civil Unions Measure Advances

ILL GOV. PAT QUINN X390The Illinois house of representatives could vote on a civil unions bill as early as Tuesday.
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Illinois Family Institute: Civil Unions Will Lead To Polygamous Marriages

The Illinois Family Institute, a SLPC-certified hate group, says that if civil unions are approved in Illinois, polygamous marriages will be next.

Section 10 of this bill states that any partner in a civil union shall be legally considered a “spouse” and “family.” “This is same-sex marriage sans the name,” said David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. “That is simply something that American voters have rejected time and time again. Voters in 31 states have rejected redefining marriage and family at the ballot box. The people in Illinois are no different.”

Those who want to redefine marriage often insist that the only necessary qualification for marriage is “love.” Under that rationale, there can logically be no boundaries as to what constitutes marriage. Any combination or number of consenting individuals must ultimately gain the same legal and societal sanction as traditional marriage. While love is vital, it is not the definitive element of marriage, and love is certainly not the concern of government. We love many people we do not marry.

RELATED: Last week the Illinois Family Institute declared that Dan Savage promotes “anti-Christian evil” and therefore no public figure should associate themselves with the It Gets Better Project. The IFI also supports the repeal of any laws offering civil rights or hate crimes protections to LGBT Americans. From 2003-2006 the executive director of the IFI was Porno Pete LaBarbera.

Joe. My. God.

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