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updated: 1/31/2011 8:01 PM

Quinn signs civil unions into law

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  • Illinois Gov Pat Quinn holds up the signed civil unions bill during ceremonies Monday in Chicago. Applauding behind Quinn are the legislative sponsors, state Sen. David Koehler, left, and state Rep. Greg Harris.

      Illinois Gov Pat Quinn holds up the signed civil unions bill during ceremonies Monday in Chicago. Applauding behind Quinn are the legislative sponsors, state Sen. David Koehler, left, and state Rep. Greg Harris.
    Associated Press

 
 

With a bit of serendipitous timing, Chris Hayevski and Kristine Zasanski marked their seventh anniversary Monday.

The Westchester couple cleared their schedules, boarded the Metra train headed for downtown, and, before grabbing a bite to eat, made a stop at the Chicago Cultural Center.

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There, inside a gilded fourth-floor hall packed shoulder to shoulder with other onlookers, the women celebrated in a way that they weren't sure they'd ever get to in their home state.

Surrounded by Illinois' constitutional officers, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law civil unions -- legal agreements giving unmarried partners, both gay and straight, many of the same state rights and benefits of married couples.

The pair aren't sure when they'll apply for civil union, only noting that they'll eventually do so.

"You pay the same taxes," Hayevski said. "It's simply nice to have the same options as everybody else."

Illinois is now the sixth state in the country, along with the District of Columbia, to recognize civil unions or gay marriages.

New rights for couples joined in civil unions include automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions, adoption rights, pension benefits, inheritance rights, and the rights to dispose of a partner's remains.

The legislation goes into effect June 1. Supporters say civil unions are a matter of basic fairness for all Illinois residents.

They include Melody Geraci and Sharon Sheridan, Chicago residents and partners who look forward to the new legislation allowing them joint parenting rights for the four children they are raising together, including a disabled daughter. Opponents of civil unions remain steadfast in their belief that the approval of civil unions is a step toward gay marriage. In recent years, proposed Illinois constitutional amendments outlawing gay marriage have been filed, but they've never been voted on under Democratic leadership.

Groups like the Illinois Family Institute are already at work criticizing the lawmakers who supported civil unions, with the aim of making it harder for them to win re-election.

"There are forces that want to turn back the clock," said state Rep. Greg Harris, House sponsor of the legislation.

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