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Illinois State House passes civil unions in a emotionally charged debate
By Kyle Maichle
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois: Members of the Illinois House of Representatives approved legislation to legalize civil unions in the Land of Lincoln. Despite the passage of the bill, it did not come at the expense of a emotionally charged debate on the floor of the Illinois State House.
The bill to legalize civil unions passed on a 61-52 vote. During the debate, two openly gay and lesbian lawmakers used their personal stories to persuade fellow State House members to pass the legislation. Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), a openly gay lawmaker and lead author of the bill, compared the efforts to promote equality between gays and lesbians to past efforts by women and African Americans. Harris also argued that recent polling shows that a majority of Illinois citizens want scivil unions and said that the definition of marriage would not be changed. Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) also used her personal story in her attempt to persuade lawmakers. Mell's partner sat alongside her on the floor of the Illinois State House to witness the emotionally charged debate.
However, some conservative lawmakers expressed concern that a civil unions bill would open the door for gay marriage in Illinois. Rep. David Reis (R-Effingham) argued that approval of civil unions would open the door for Illinois courts to legalize gay marriage. Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Metro East) denounced the argument of Rep. Harris that the battle to legalize civil unions is similar to past battles towards equality in U.S. history. Stephens argued that the acceptance of homosexuality contributed to the fall of Greece and Rome and could harm the U.S. if more states followed Illinois lead. Six Republican lawmakers including Suzanne Bassi, Mark Beaubien, William Black, Elizabeth Coulson, Rosemary Mulligan, and Angelo Saviano voted yes with Democrats to legalize civil unions.
The bill awaits passage in the Illinois State Senate in which the debate is expected to be very emotional. Governor Pat Quinn told FOX Chicago News that he would sign the bill if both houses of the General Assembly approve it.