Monday, January 31, 2011

Gov. Quinn to Sign Ill. Civil Unions Bill

Courtesy of the Huffington Post, Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois will sign into law today a bill allowing gay couples to enter into civil unions.  The state legislature had signed the bill into law last month.

Attendance for the signing ceremony, which is today at 4 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center, is expected to be extraordinarily high due to the historic nature of the bill: very few states allow civil unions, with only five states and the District of Columbia allowing full equal marriage.

While not as extensive as marriage, the civil unions will give gay couples some of the same rights, including hospital visitation and next of kin responsibilities: civil unions are, then, the first word, not the last, on LGBT equality in the realm of marriage in the state of Illinois.

With any civil unions or domestic partnerships bill comes the inevitable debate: should we be taking this incremental approach to marriage rights (by pursuing first civil unions, and then full marriage equality), or should we solely be focused on marriage equality? 

It seems, on the one hand, that this incremental approach may make the process lengthier and subject to "fatigue," whereby people get so used to having a separate institution for gay couples, and start to (falsely) believe that the rights are the same, that they see no need to allow gay marriage.

On the other hand, one could argue that with civil unions gay couples gain rights (although they certainly aren't full rights) sooner than they would if we solely fought for gay marriage, and civil unions can work as a stepping stone towards full marriage equality; for instance, in the state of Connecticut, civil unions were passed into law, and then gay couples successfully sued on the grounds that they created separate institutions for different people).

What do you think?  What is the most effective way to pursue marriage equality?

Bonus: with the fight for marriage equality in mind, don't forget to vote in our poll over whether we should spend our time and effort lobbying on ENDA, or if we have more important battles to wage.  You only have one more day to vote!

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