Illinois civil unions bill to be signed into law Jan. 31 by Gov. Pat Quinn

Mon. January 24, 2011 4:51 PM by Kevin Wayne

rep. greg harris during debate on civil unions bill 11/30/10

photo credit // harris' facebook feed

Civil unions bill-signing ceremony to take place in Chicago

Chicago, IL - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will sign the landmark civil unions legislation into law during a ceremony in downtown Chicago on Monday, Jan. 31.

The architect behind the bill, openly-gay State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), announced the date on his Facebook page on Saturday.

"Plan to attend and witness history taking place," wrote Harris.

The signing ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, in Chicago's Loop, according to an announcement released Monday, which confirmed details first reported by

The event will be attended by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), state Rep. Deborah Mell (D-Chicago) and the bill's chief sponsors, state Sen. Dave Koehler (D-46th District) and Rep. Harris.

"It is hard to believe 6 years ago when I got arrested for advocating for marriage equality, that I would the first lesbian serving in the state legislature, be able to vote for civil unions and speak at the bill signing," said Mell. "This impacts Christin and I very personally because we are getting married this year. It is great for Illinois and the advancement of true equality."

With the event open to the public, organizers anticipate a large crowd and they plan to offer first come, first served seating. is told a satellite seating area will be available with closed circuit video coverage planned for the overflow, which is anticipated to be over a thousand people.

"I am thrilled the the governor is signing this important bill into law," said Equality Illinois co-founder and long time gay rights advocate Rick Garcia. "This bill brings us one step closer to full Equality in Illinois."

The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (SB 1716) passed to cheers in the Illinois Senate by a 32-24-1 vote on Dec., 1, 2010 after passing in the Illinois House by a 61-52 majority vote the previous day on Nov. 30, 2010.

With Gov. Quinn's signature, gay and lesbian couples will be able to have their unions legally recognized by the state effective June 1, 2011.

"This is the culmination of years of careful strategy and effective organizing by many people and organizations throughout our state and having sponsors - Rep. Harris and Sen. Koehler - who not only know how to get things done but enjoy enormous respect among their colleagues," said Garcia, who as the former political director for Equality Illinois worked tirelessly to make same-sex civil unions reality in Illinois.

"Of the handful of states that have achieved change through the legislative process, Illinois is the only state that is not located on one of the coasts," The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) president Jacob Meister told "Illinois will surely pave the way for other states in the heartland to legislatively grant rights to same-sex couples."

TCRA, like Equality Illinois, was instrumental in lobbying the Illinois General Assembly to pass the civil unions legislation.

The bill does not recognize same-sex marriages, but will provide the same spousal rights to same-sex partners when it comes to surrogate decision-making for medical treatment, survivorship, adoptions, and accident and health insurance.

Passage of the bill by the Illinois legislature and signing by Gov. Quinn reflects public opinion in Illinois that same-sex couples need recognition under the law. An October 2010 poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute of likely Illinois voters shows 67.5% approve of civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples.

Conservative groups, including the Catholic Conference of Illinois and Washington D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage (NOM), lobbied aggressively against the bill.

California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington have passed laws allowing same sex civil unions. Same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington D.C. and Iowa.