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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 10, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 23
National News
Section One
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National News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Illinois civil-union law takes effect
Illinois' civil-union law came into force June 1. Couples lined up early in the morning at the county clerk's office in Chicago to pick up paperwork. Then, by law, they had to wait one day before tying the knot.

The following morning, 35 couples got hitched at ceremonies in Millennium Park in The Loop. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn attended the celebration.

'To be here not protesting, here in the sunlight in Millennium Park in front of the mayor and governor, it really is remarkable,' veteran Chicago activist Arthur Johnston told Windy City Times.

Johnston co-founded Equality Illinois, which lobbied for the civil-union bill in the state Legislature in Springfield. He tied the knot with his partner of 38 years, José 'Pepe' Peña. The couple are owners of the popular Boystown bar Sidetrack.

'This is one of the most important bills that has been passed in anyone's memory,' Gov. Quinn told the couples and several hundred spectators.

The Illinois law grants civil-union couples all the state-level rights and obligations that married people have. It also recognizes same-sex marriages and civil unions from anywhere else in the world as an Illinois civil union.

Interestingly, such recognition could have a downside for some people.

Jill Metz, board president at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, warned in an online posting: 'If you married or civil unioned a person with whom you are now no longer in a relationship and you have not legally dissolved the relationship, please be aware that, as of June 1, 2011, you are civilly unioned in Illinois and our domestic-relation laws apply to you. In other words, as of June 1, you may have marital property and obligations for maintenance with this other person. You need to file for a divorce!'

Some anti-Gay activists said they hope to repeal the civil-union law. Longtime activist Peter LaBarbera said 'homosexual behavior is always wrong' and 'homosexuality-based 'rights' and religious freedom cannot co-exist.'

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Same-sex marriages from elsewhere are recognized as marriages in Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and California (if the marriage took place before Proposition 8 passed).

Eleven other nations allow same-sex couples to marry - Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide).

U.S. states with civil-union laws that grant all state-level marriage rights are California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. Four other states have Gay-union laws that extend some rights of marriage: Colorado, Maine, Maryland, and Wisconsin.

The situation in California is noteworthy. Same-sex marriage was legal from June to November 2008, when voters amended the state constitution via Proposition 8 to put a stop to it. The couples who married then are still legally married, as are other same-sex couples who live in California and got married anywhere in the world before Prop 8 passed. Gay couples who married somewhere else after Prop 8 passed, or who marry elsewhere in the future, receive every state-level right and obligation of marriage in California except for the legal right to call their marriage a 'marriage' when they are in California. They are not recognized under the state's domestic-partnership law, but rather are married couples who are denied use of the word 'marriage.'

Fifty-eight percent of New York voters favor same-sex marriage
A Quinnipiac University poll released June 2 found that 58% of New York state voters support letting same-sex couples marry and 36% oppose it.

Support stands at 72% among Democrats, 58% among independents, 34% among Republicans, 58% among men, and 59% among women.

The question asked was, 'Would you support or oppose a law that would allow same-sex couples to get married?'

The poll was conducted May 24-30. It questioned 1,257 registered voters by phone, including people who have only a cell phone. The margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.

Connecticut protects Trans people
Connecticut has become the 15th state (along with D.C.) to explicitly ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

The measure passed the House 77-62 in May, passed the Senate 20-16 on June 4, and will be signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

'It's the right thing to do,' Malloy said. 'It's difficult enough for people who are grappling with the issue of their gender identity, and discrimination against them has no place in our society.'

The protections extend to workplaces, housing, public accommodations and credit services.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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