The Illinois Senate passed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act Dec. 1 by a 32-24 votecompleting a two-day, two-chamber sweep for the historic measure. Gov. Pat Quinn has already said that he will sign the bill, ensuring that Illinois will become the second state (after New Jersey) to have civil unions.
The law will become valid July 1, 2011.
There were some interesting developments in the voting: Dan Rutherford (who was recently elected state treasurer) was the only Republican who voted in favor of the measure. (Christine Radogno, a Republican some view as pro-LGBT, voted against it.) The Rev. James Meeksa Democrat and Chicago mayoral candidatealso voted against the bill.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, told Windy City Times that the passage "feels really good." He added that he felt "a sense of relief and a sense of jubilation because, finally, after so many years of waiting, tens of thousands of couples across the state will have the protections they have needed for so long.
"For me, it's [also] a bittersweet moment; it's sweet because they have [the protections], and it's bitter because it they've had to do without. I've heard horror stories about families being denied hospital visitation and emergency medical-decision rights."
The Illinois House approved the measure the previous day by a vote of 61-52, with one vote to spare.Read more story below....
Before the vote, Harris urged colleagues to help make history: "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."
According to the Chicago Tribune, Mell (who plans to marry fiancee Christin Baker in Iowa next year) tearfully urged her fellow legislators to pass the bill: "If God forbid something happens to Christin, and she cannot make a decision, by law the doctor cannot ask me anything. I am not able to speak for her wishes. Under the law the doctor has to go to her family and I'm not considered family."
Quinn has said he expects to hold a ceremony to sign the measure early next year.
A bill that has passed both chambers must be presented to the governor within 30 days of its passage. (The state Senate passed the civil-unions bill Dec. 1, while the House passed it the previous day.) The governor then has 60 days beyond that to take action.