Phil Kadner of the Southtown Star has an excellent profile piece about an Illinois couple who have a civil union, but hope to get married upon the passage of the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Andrea Denney and Beth Reich have been together for 25 years, live in Flossmoor, and have three children. They speak to the cultural and legal differences between civil unions and marriage, highlighting why this bill is so important. Not only is it hard to explain how their civil union is different from marriage to family and friends, civil unions do not provide the same legal protections that marriage would.
According to the ACLU, a couple in a civil union may not have the protections or responsibilities federal law provides to married couples.
These include Social Security survivors’ and spousal benefits, federal veterans’ spousal benefits, federal employment benefits, exemption from income tax on a partner’s health benefits and the federal exemption from inheritance tax.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of a bill called the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, said there have even been cases where a parent was not allowed into an intensive care unit of a hospital where a sick child was being treated.
“There would have been no question if the parents had been married,” Harris said. “But hospital officials were reluctant to let a parent in a civil union see their child.”