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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Illinois.

2010/2011: Civil Union bill passes House and
Senate. Bill signed into law. Implications
in adoption and in state income tax filing.

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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2010-NOV-30: Bill SB 1716 passes the House:

The bill's sponsor, Greg Harris (D-Chicago), said on the House floor:

"We have a chance today to make Illinois a more fair state, a more just state, and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law. We have a chance here, as leaders have had in previous generations, to correct injustice and to move us down the path toward liberty." 1

Harris' speech was factually inaccurate. Couples would not be treated equally, even with the civil union bill passed. Same-sex couples could not marry; they could not call their relationship a marriage; they would have only have access to some of the privileges and protections for themselves and their children. However, it would be a major step towards equality.

Two Republicans -- State Reps. Mark Beaubien (R-Wauconda) and William Black (R-Danville) -- joined with numerous Democrats to give speeches in support the bill.

Those opposed to the bill suggested that it represented a "slippery slope" that will erode traditional family values by leading eventually to same-sex marriage (SSM).

Rep. Ron Stephens (R - 102nd District) blamed "open homosexuality" for the fall of Rome. He implied that passage of a civil unions bill would be the first step leading to the decline in American civilization. He said:

"I believe that if this [civil union bill] should ever pass, the next bill will be legalizing marriage between members of the same sex. And I just think that's wrong. You might think I'm wrong in thinking that ... just call me an old-fashioned traditionalist."

Rep. David Reis, (R-Willow Hill) asked "Are you ready for gay marriage?" 2

The Huffington Post stated that: "Though a handful of the bill's opponents stood up [and spoke], the debate was overwhelmingly positive."

Rick Garcia, director of public policy for Equality Illinois -- a group dedicated to marriage equality in the state --said:

"We think it's just the fair and decent thing to do. It isn't scary. It's happening all over." 1

Passage of the bill came in spite of strong lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church which regards homosexual sexual orientation to be a disordered state. The church teaches that certain forms of discriminations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals (LGBTs) are moral and ethical. Cardinal Francis George even made personal telephone calls to legislators asking them to oppose the bill.

Proponents of equality for persons of all sexual orientations mounted a strong lobbying effort for the bill and were ultimately successful. The bill passed the House by a vote of 61 to 52, and was taken up by the Senate on the next day.

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2010-DEC-01: Bill SB 1716 passes the Senate:

The debate showed the usual division between Democrats and Republicans:

  • Sen. Heather Steans, (D-Chicago) was one of many representatives who referred to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights civil rights movement as she urged colleagues to join her in "... bending the moral arc of justice. ... This is a legacy vote. It makes a statement about the justice for which we stand."

  • Sen. David Koehler, (D-Peoria), said that he saw the issue :... through the eyes of a father who has a gay child [a daughter who] ... doesn’t have the same rights" as his other children.

  • Sen. Chris Lauzen, (R-Aurora) questioned why the Senate should discuss civil unions now, when the state suffers from high unemployment, high levels of home foreclosures, a huge state debt and social services in disarray. He said:
    "We are the incompetence laughing stock of government mismanagement and misplaced priorities, and our one-party (Democratic) leadership spends our time on homosexual civil unions."
  • Sen. Dan Rutherford (R) , who took over the post of state treasurer during the previous month, was the only Republican in the Senate to vote for the bill. He said: "It's the right thing to do."

  • Sen. John Jones, (R-Mount Vernon), said that he has a "lot of good gay friends" but that civil unions are: "... the wrong path to take. ... Rome is burning, folks, and we’re sitting back watching it burning." He cited high levels of unemployment and state finances as of higher priority than equal rights.

  • Sen. Ira Silverstein, (D-Chicago), voted "present." 2

The bill was passed passed 32 to 24 with one abstention. Those in favor included 31 Democrats and one very brave Republican.

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2011-JAN-31: Bill is signed into law:

Governor Pat Quinn (D) signed the 2010 civil unions bill into law. Supporters called the law "... a matter of basic fairness." Opponents condemned it as "... a threat to the sanctity of traditional marriage." 3

The law took effect four months later on 2011-JUN-01. At that time, loving, committed same-sex couples became able to enter into a civil union, to obtain official recognition from the state, and to receive a few of the rights given by the state that accompany marriage, including the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner and the right to inherit a partner's property."

However, as long as the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) remains in effect, they are denied some 1,100 federal rights, privileges, and protections that are given automatically to opposite-sex couples when the latter marry -- even if the same-sex couple were to marry in the District of Columbia or in one of the states where same-sex marriage is legal. DOMA has been declared unconstitutional by multiple federal courts because it violates multiple clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Obama Administration has announced that it will continue to enforce DOMA because it is a law passed by Congress and never appealed. However, they will not defend the law against constitutional challenges because it is so clearly unconstitutional.

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Effect of the bill on adoption by same-sex couples in Illinois:

The civil union law was written so that religious institutions could continue to discriminate against same-sex unions by refusing to bless them in a church ritual or service. However, the bill was silent on the matter of same-sex parenting.

Kendall Marlowe of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) said:

"Social intervention such as adoption laws and practices inevitably reflect their communities. Illinois as a state has grown on this [gay rights] issue as evidenced by [civil union legislation]. Adoption law and practice should reflect the values of the people of Illinois." 3

More information on adoptions in Illinois. 

2011-NOV-29: IL: State allows same-sex state income tax filings:

The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDR) has reversed a decision made some six months earlier. Couples in civil unions will now be able to file taxes jointly. Sue Hofer, a spokesperson for the IDR said:

"The governor said that being in a civil union in Illinois is the equivalent of being married in Illinois, and married people file jointly. ... "This is a question of fairness and equity more than it is a question of dollars and cents. ... There is a limited amount we can do with the federal law. I don't think this is the last of this."

There is a snag, however:

  • The federal Defense of Marriage Act, requires that civil unionized couples they will still be required to file their federal income tax forms separately, as individuals.

  • The Illinois regulation requires couples filing their state income taxes jointly must also fill out their federal tax form jointly.

As a result, civil unionized couples will have to fill out their federal tax forms twice: first as individuals and then as a couple. The first form is filed with the Federal government; the second with the state.

According to Equality Illinois, there are currently 11 jurisdictions that allow same-sex partners to file taxes jointly: the District of Columbia, Illinois, and nine other states.

Multiple lawsuits in federal courts have declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. Some have been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is a general expectation that the legislation will not be around much in the future. 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Illinois Civil Unions Bill PASSES State House," Huffington Post, 2010-NOV-30, HuffPost Chicago, at:
  2. "Illinois Senate approves civil unions, measure heads to Quinn," Chicago Tribune, 2010-DEC-01, at:
  3. "About LCFS," Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois," 2003, at:
  4. Kate Sosin, "Dept. of Revenue announces same-sex filings in IL," Windy City Times, 2011-NOV-29, at:

Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2011-DEC-08
Latest update: 2012-NOV-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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