SPRINGFIELD, IL, February 1, 2011 ( – Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois has signed a bill that legalizes same-sex civil unions in the state, giving marriage-like privileges to same-sex couples.

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, first introduced in the legislature in 2007, bestows upon couples seeking civil union status “the obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.”  The House and Senate approved the measure in December and Gov. Quinn signed it yesterday.

“We believe in civil rights and we believe in civil unions,” said Quinn at the signing.

Despite criticism from Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Quinn, who is a Catholic, stated, “my religious faith animates me” to support the civil unions bill.

“This legislation represents a giant step toward equality,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan, according to the Chicago Times.

Meanwhile religious and pro-family groups say that the law is simply “a stepping stone” towards legalizing same-sex “marriage.”

‘‘Marriage was not created by man or governments,’’ David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said Monday. ‘‘It is an institution created by God. Governments merely recognize its nature and importance.’‘

“Homosexual behavior is not equivalent to race and gender diversity is essential to marriage. It is intellectually dishonest to argue otherwise,” he said.

The bill will take effect June 1.

Similar legislation received Senate approval in Honolulu recently.  Hawaii’s Senate Bill 232 passed a Senate vote 19-6 on Friday.  The bill now goes to the House of Representatives where the results are expected to be similar.

The proposal is essentially the same as that of House Bill 444, which was vetoed by Gov. Gov. Linda Lingle early last year.  While it does not change the definition of marriage as one man and one woman, it gives both same-sex and heterosexual unmarried couples protections, rights and responsibilities privileged to married couples.  Supporters are confident that this year’s bill will see different results.  Gov. Neil Abercrombie supports a civil union bill and has already said he would sign it.

“It’s not the legislature’s intent to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage,” Senate majority leader Brickwood Galuteria said, Hawaii News Now reported.

Sen. Mike Gabbard disagreed, however, arguing: “This will force same-sex marriage on the people of Hawaii who have consistently shown their opposition.”

“What they want to do basically is to blur and then erase the lines between civil unions, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiaries, any name you want, and marriage,” said Sen. Sam Slom.

Bishop Clarence Silva, Bishop of Honolulu, wrote a letter to the Senate last Friday urging senators to vote against SB 232.  “I firmly believe that any supposed ‘right’ to civil unions is a manufactured right, which, if recognized in law, will have detrimental effects on our community,” said the bishop.

“Marriage is an institution that is centuries old. Religions have recognized it, but they did not invent it. It has specific purposes of providing a stable union not just for the benefit of the couple but for children and for society at large. The complementarity of male and female is fundamental to marriage.”

The bishop argued that civil unions are “so much like marriage,” that “our acceptance of them will ultimately force us into accepting same-sex marriage.”


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