Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-06-13
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Illinois civil-unions bill becomes law
Updated with coverage by Rex Wockner
by Kate Sosin

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

      More Photos

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn faced a standing ovation so loud he was forced to shush a packed room at the Chicago Cultural Center as he stepped onto the stage to sign the state's civil-unions into law Jan. 31.

"This is the moment that will be remembered," said Gov. Quinn before he sat down to sign. "On this Jan. 31, in the year of 2011 when we came together here in Illinois, in the Land of Lincoln and made this happen."

More than 1,000 people packed the downtown building for the event.

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act ( SB 1716 ) grants same-sex couples all of the same state rights as married Illinois couples.

"I think the greatest thing about Illinois is that we're a welcoming, hospitable, accepting place," said Quinn. He called Illinois "something special. Because we believe in civil rights and we believe in civil unions."

Present were LGBTQ activists, parents, couples, reporters, politicians and veterans from across the state. The GAR Rotunda, on the fourth floor of the Cultural Center, was so crowded that audience members pressed into the back of the room and lined the side aisles.

Most of the attention was on State Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored the bill in the Illinois House of Representatives. Harris appeared exuberant. "I couldn't be happier," Harris told Windy City Times. "I am very, very proud. If you look at the crowd, you can see how significant this is. There are people from all over the state who have come here because this is changing their lives."

State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, was also recognized for his sponsorship of the bill in the senate. Koehler said he was "honored" to have been a part of the legislation and dedicated to the bill to his own daughter, who is gay. "It's through her eyes that I see this," Koehler said. "Justice looks a bit better [ today ] ."

Several LGBTQ groups participated in the program leading up to the signing. Jim Darby and other members of American Veterans for Equal Rights led the room in the pledge of allegiance. The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus preceded the event with a song called "Brand New Day," and attendees clapped and sang along, took pictures together, and congratulated one another.

"I knew that it would happen," said Stacy Fox, 29, who attended the signing with her partner. "But I'm actually surprised it happened so soon. I thought it would be five or 10 years down the road." Fox will unionize with her partner, Rebecca Siegel in July. She hopes her family will see her relationship as legitimate a result. The two were engaged in October, but never imagined their ceremony would be legally recognized.

Still, an overwhelming sentiment among attendees was that civil unions were not the end point, but a stepping stone for many who want same-sex marriage legalized. "There is still work to be done," Harris told the audience. "Things can get better."

Illinois civil unions will entitle same-sex ( and heterosexual ) couples most of the benefits of marriage. However, Illinois civil unions might not be recognized in states that do not offer similar protections for same-sex couples. Same-sex couples with Illinois civil unions may still need to file power of attorneys, single-parent adoptions, and other measures to ensure they are protected if they leave the state.

Quinn did not comment on whether or not he would support same-sex marriage legislation, but several speakers encouraged the crowd to push for "full equality," suggesting that while historic, SB 1716, was not enough.

Rick Garcia, the now-former Equality Illinois public policy director, shared similar sentiments with Windy City Times. Garcia, who was seen by many as instrumental in the passage of SB 1716, was controversially ousted from Equality Illinois in December. He expressed his excitement over the signing and fiercely reaffirmed his commitment to fighting for same-sex marriage without Equality Illinois.

"I am overwhelmed," Garcia said before the signing. "This is the culmination of so many people's hard work and so many things. So we're one step closer to full equality in the great state of Illinois. We still have a way to go. I'm not going anywhere."

Garcia was not included in the program, but a mention of his name by openly lesbian state Rep. Deborah Mell caused a thunderous round of applause and a partial standing ovation, during which Garcia tearfully blew a kiss to the audience.

Throughout the ceremony, the audience members screamed, laughed, jumped up and down, sang, cried and even shouted praises at Harris. Reporters and photographers climbed onto chairs to see the governor introduce Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and others. But when Quinn returned to the microphone and announced he was ready to sign the civil-union bill into law, the rowdy room quieted.

Several anticipated minutes passed as the governor signed the bill and passed pens to Harris, Mell and legislators and supporters. U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley and Danny Davis were joined by numerous state elected and appointed officials. When Quinn finished signing, the room erupted in cheers.

After the signing, most of those gathered headed to another part of the building for a celebration catered by the Hearty Boys and underwritten by businessman/philanthropist Fred Eychaner.

Illinois is the sixth state to grant same-sex couples significant partner recognition. Civil unions will go into effect June 1. All couples in Illinois who have married or unionized elsewhere, will automatically be recognized as in a civil union.

To support families protected by the new law, Lambda Legal and Equality Illinois launched the Civil Union Tracker.

"We have had a surge of calls to our Legal Help Desk since November when the law passed the legislature," said Camilla Taylor, Senior Staff Attorney at the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal in Chicago, in a press release. " [ Our ] goal is to provide a much-needed service to same-sex and different-sex couples in civil unions, and to their children."

The Civil Union Tracker can be found at

Illinois civil union bill signed into law, by Rex Wockner

Gov. Pat Quinn signed Illinois' comprehensive civil-union bill into law Jan. 31. It will take effect June 1.

"This is the moment that I think long after we're gone, people will remember us, on the 31st of January in the year 2011 that we came together here in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, and made history," Quinn said.

The governor used 97 different pens to sign the bill, so that many of the people who worked on it could have a souvenir. It took him 7 minutes and 25 seconds to affix his signature to the document.

When he finished, he stood, thrust the signed bill in the air, and looked extremely satisfied but also humble. For video of the neverending signing, see

Under the law, gay and straight couples in a civil union will receive the same state-level benefits, protections and responsibilities provided to married people.

The law also recognizes other states' same-sex marriages -- but only as civil unions.

"This new law reflects the triumph of hope and fairness over distortion and division," said Jill Metz, board president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

In all, 13 states and Washington, D.C., now have expansive civil-union laws, allow same-sex marriage, or recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. In addition, New York and Maryland recognize same-sex marriages from elsewhere in the nation or world. Civil-union or domestic-partnership laws that grant all state-level rights of marriage are also in place in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.

In addition there are laws that grant same-sex couples some of the rights of marriage in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Wisconsin.

California is a further case unto itself. Same-sex marriage was legal from June to November 2008, when voters amended the state constitution via Proposition 8 to put a stop to it. The couples who married then are still legally married, as are other same-sex couples who live in California and got married anywhere in the world before Prop 8 passed. Gay couples who married somewhere else after Prop 8 passed, or who marry elsewhere in the future, receive every state-level right and obligation of marriage in California except for the legal right to call their marriage a "marriage" when they are in California. They are not recognized under the state's domestic partnership law, but rather are married couples who are denied use of the word "marriage."

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


South Bend, Ind., mayor marries 2018-06-18
Bermuda court rejects gay-marriage ban 2018-06-06
Threats to marriage equality threaten security of children 2018-06-04
MOMBIAN Of marriage and parenting 2018-05-09
Trinidad and Tobago: Court Overturns Same-Sex Intimacy Ban 2018-04-13
THEATER 'This Is Us' writer's drama covers intolerance, same-sex marriage 2018-04-04
LGBTQ couples shop around wedding expo 2018-03-21
2018 LGBT Wedding Expo March 18 2018-03-14
Same-sex wedding expo March 18 2018-03-07
Same-sex wedding expo March 18 2018-02-28
Bermuda revokes same-sex marriage 2018-02-08
Same-sex wedding expo March 18 2018-02-07
Landmark ruling OKs marriage, trans rights in Americas 2018-01-17
Orr issues final 1st marriage license 2018-01-10
National roundup: Trump's anti-trans loss, marriage fight, gay mayors 2018-01-02
World news: Bermuda guv, Olympics tryouts, 'The Future Is Female' 2017-12-19
Bermuda Senate Votes to Repeal Marriage Equality 2017-12-13
World news: Couple tortured, 'Trans Day of Rage,' Bermuda marriage repeal 2017-12-12
Australia legalizes same-sex marriage 2017-12-07
DANCE Love and marriage: Hubbard Street couple dance together 2017-12-06
World news: Marriage in Austria, U.S. envoy, Canada's payment 2017-12-05
Australians approve marriage equality 2017-11-15
WNBA player marries in 'Dream Wedding' 2017-11-15
Marriage Equality USA publishes The People's Victory 2017-11-13
Supreme Court to look at Masterpiece Cake v. Colorado and, in a way, marriage 2017-10-31
WEDDINGS Yospin-Valentour 2017-10-11
Statement from President Obama on the Passing of Edith Windsor 2017-09-12
World news: Australia and marriage, gay journalist, Pakistani bill 2017-08-15
German president OKs marriage law 2017-07-21
Singapore Voids Marriage of Trans Woman And Her Wife 2017-07-18
WORLD NEWS Marriage in Australia, Amsterdam reception, HIV controversy 2017-07-18
World news: Marriage items, Chechnya question, Rudolf Nureyev 2017-07-11
Queen, Lambert in Chicago July 13 2017-07-05
1.1 M LGBTs married to someone of same sex at two-year anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges 2017-07-05
NEA honors Jim Obergefell for victorious fight in Supreme Court case 2017-07-02
German legislators OK same-sex marriage 2017-06-30
BOOKS Nathaniel Frank chronicles the road to marriage equality 2017-06-28
Springfield, Illinois, bishop issues edicts against Catholics in same-sex marriages 2017-06-22
World: German visas, Scottish Church OKs marriage, G-A-Y incident 2017-06-13
Chicago gay couple fights for marriage rights in Panama 2017-06-07

Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.