Illinois Gay Civil Unions Law Takes Effect; Mass Ceremonies Planned

Same-sex couples will be able to obtain civil union licenses starting Wednesday, the day the Illinois civil unions law goes into effect.

David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, calls the civil unions law anti-family.

"The government has no reason to provide affirmation or benefits to relationships that do not serve the public good; and relationships based on same-sex attraction and volitional homosexual acts do not per se serve the public good. Lawmakers should be looking at ways to strengthen the natural family, not undermine it," he said in a statement.

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In downtown Chicago, dozens of same-sex couples lined up before doors opened at the Cook County Clerk's office to apply for their civil unions license. Officials estimate that about 2,000 licenses will be issued the first day, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The civil unions law allows both same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into a legal partnership. Couples entering into a civil union will receive the same state benefits of married couples, from hospital visitation rights to inheritance rights.

Smith has argued that allowing same-sex civil unions will be a precursor to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.

"The state of Illinois has a compelling interest to recognize, protect and promote the God-ordained institution of marriage through legal benefits, as it is the best environment to raise the next generation," he stated.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act into law on Jan. 31 despite protests from traditional marriage advocates.

"We believe in civil rights, and we believe in civil unions. We believe in liberty and justice for all," Quinn said at the signing.

Gov. Quinn will attend a mass civil union ceremony hosted by the city of Chicago Thursday at Wrigley Square in Millennium Park. Thirty gay and lesbian couples are expected to exchange vows during the ceremony.

On Friday, another mass civil union ceremony will be hosted by The Civil Rights Agenda, an LGBT advocacy group. The event will be held at the Chicago History Museum.

Other than Illinois, same-sex civil unions are currently legal in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Hawaii and Illinois have passed civil union laws that will take effect in June 2011 and January 2012, respectively.

In May, Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions making Delaware the eighth state to allow same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships. The law will take effect January 1, 2012.

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