Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Progress for Human Rights in Illinois

The Illinois General Assembly (state house of reps) passed legislation yesterday that would legalize civil unions for same-sex (as well as opposite-sex) couples.  The state senate is debating the bill today; it is expected to pass.  Governor Quinn has promised to sign the bill.  Actually, Quinn went to the house floor yesterday to advocate on behalf of it.  (One of the reasons I like the guy.  He has the guts to stand up when he needs to.)

This is much needed legislation.  Gay and lesbian couples have as much right as any other adults to see their legal rights as partners protected.  The civil union bills affects areas such as health care and inheritance of property, among other things.

Opponents claim that couples should just go to an attorney to have legal arrangements made to cover those concerns.  But why should they have to?  Why should gay and lesbian people who have chosen their life partners have to jump through hoops that straight couples are not required to?  This bill is about fairness.  It's about equal treatment for all adults in this state.

Some folks--including the Catholic Conference of Illinois (the Illinois bishops, in other words)--have argued that this legislation will eventually lead to religious institutions being forced to perform weddings and blessing ceremonies for gay couples.  Although I personally would not have a problem with any church (including the Catholic church) choosing to bless gay couples, this bill--and similar laws in other states--deals with only civil law.  No one has ever been able to legally force a Catholic priest (or any other minister) to marry a couple with one or more divorces in their background.  In fact, no one in the United States has ever been able to force any religious institution to marry anyone. (The couple where one or both partners has a divorce in their past is still allowed to go to the courthouse and get married without the help of a priest.  We don't discriminate against them under civil law simply because not every religious denomination is happy about their situation.)  The "danger to America's churches" argument is a non-starter, at least in the United States, where the First Amendment gives religious institutions a wide berth regarding how they implement their faith.

Reasonable people can disagree about many things (including whether this legislation goes far enough in terming the new unions "civil unions" rather than marriages), but in the end this is a civil rights issue.  My belief in Jesus and his teachings leads me to believe that God wants people to have equal rights under the law--yes, that's right, I believe God wants people to be treated fairly.  Radical or moderate or whatever I am, I've finally gone and said it!  I think God wants people to be treated fairly.

1 comment:

Thom, sfo said...

Amen. Thanks for this.