Some clergy to support same-sex civil unions

SPRINGFIELD -- Gay-rights activists plan to trumpet the support of some members of the clergy in a last-minute push to get approval for same-sex civil unions in Illinois.

Activists plan to take several dozen clergy members of various faiths to the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, when lawmakers could vote on the civil unions plan.

“We know your mothers and your teachers taught you to respect the choices people make and the primacy of their choices,” Catholic nun Donna Quinn, of Palos Heights, said in a statement.

Quinn, who will travel to Springfield on Tuesday, doesn't represent the position of the Catholic Church far from it.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois the lobbying arm for all six Catholic diocese in the state believes the bill strikes at the “sanctity” of marriage between a man and a woman.

“If you look at what (the legislation) is trying to do, words matter. The words in the bill basically confer all the benefits and protections found in (state) laws regarding marriage today to this new entity. They're just calling it by another name,” Executive Director Bob Gilligan said.

Gilligan said the Conference would be open to working toward legislation allowing gay couples some of the rights and benefits granted to married couples hospital visitation rights, for instance but “lumping 500 references in Illinois law in one fell swoop, that has ramifications and consequences.”

The clergy members supporting civil unions are planning a Capitol news conference for Tuesday morning.

A final showdown over civil unions in Illinois could happen this week in Springfield. Equality Illinois Executive Director Rick Garcia said the group is reviewing the measure's support in the Illinois House.

Confident they have enough support in the Senate to get approval, supporters have been counting votes in the House for years. Gov. Pat Quinn is also a vocal supporter.

But Garcia said the group has come to a point where it would like a floor vote this week, perhaps Tuesday.

The proposed legislation would stop short of offering same-sex couples marriage, but would offer many of the same legal rights married couples have.

Acting on controversial gay-rights legislation shortly after an election has precedence in Illinois. In January 2005, months after the 2004 election, lawmakers approved a law that barred discrimination against homosexuals when it comes to housing and hiring decisions.