SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, December 2, 2010 ( – Brushing off the objections of his Catholic bishop, the governor of Illinois has vowed to sign into law a bill that the Senate passed Wednesday, allowing same-sex couples to receive marriage-like benefits.

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 state House approved the measure the day before the Senate followed suit with a 32 to 24 vote.

Benefits conferred on homosexual couples registered as civil unions include property rights, pension benefits, and legal guardianship of children, among others. Visitation rights in nearly every hospital in the U.S. have already been granted to homosexual couples through President Obama’s executive order.

Governor Pat Quinn, who is a Catholic, called the bill’s victory “a great day for the people of Illinois, for the family of Illinois,” and dismissed criticism from Springfield bishop Thomas Paprocki. Paprocki on Wednesday had challenged Quinn for stating that “my religious faith animates me” to support the civil unions bill, responding: “He did not say what religious faith that would be, but it certainly is not the Catholic faith.”

“If the governor wishes to pursue a secular agenda for political purposes, that is his prerogative for which he is accountable to the voters,” continued the bishop. “But if he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority, and the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.”

When told of the bishop’s comments, Quinn reportedly shrugged, saying: “I follow my conscience. I think everyone should do that. I think that’s the most important thing to do in life, and my conscience is not kicking me in the shins today.”

The Catholic bishops in Illinois had called on the Illinois General Assembly to vote down the bill last month. “Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage,” they stated. They also criticized passage of the bill during a lame-duck session with little public debate.

Homosexualist groups are hailing the passage of the bill, calling it an “important step” closer to same-sex “marriage” in the state.