Civil unions proposals face dubious future in Springfield

By Nicole Milstead
Daily Herald Staff
Updated 5/7/2009 5:15 PM

SPRINGFIELD - A proposed state law to recognize civil unions in Illinois faces an uncertain future at the Capitol.

The proposal, which earlier this year cleared a House committee, has never been called for a vote before the full House. Lawmakers left the Capitol on Thursday without acting on the plan before it's deadline today for consideration.


State Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, said he'll ask to have that deadline extended. A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, also a Chicago Democrat, said Madigan already extended the deadline once, but the spokesman had not had a chance to discuss the topic again with the speaker.

Regardless, at the moment Harris acknowledges he does not have the votes and said he would not bring the proposal to a vote in the House until he does.

"I am beginning to wonder if there is any reason for someone to oppose this bill other than that they oppose basic fairness to gay people and lesbians," said Harris, who is gay.

Harris said he is very close to having enough votes and said he is optimistic he can get the needed votes this session if the deadline is extended.

"I want to get it done sooner rather than later," said Harris. "A quarter of our country now accepts this as a standard legal way of life."

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Harris chose not to try to advance his proposal to legally recognize gay marriage in Illinois.

Some critics, however, say Harris isn't close to passing the civil unions laws at all and that, in many aspects, it is not needed.

"We are opposed to it, because we think that passing the civil unions will in effect create de facto same-sex marriage in the state," said Paul Caprio, Family PAC Director. "Many of the things gay couples say they need civil union for they could get by going to a lawyer like married couples do."

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