Chicago -- Governor Pat Quinn today signs into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act, making civil unions available for same-sex couples in Illinois. The law, drafted by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, marks an important step toward fairness for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in Illinois. Illinois now joins a growing list of states across the country that provide legal protections to the unions of same-sex couples.
The new law permits Illinois couples - including those of the same sex - to enter into a legal relationship that provides them all the basic legal protections and responsibilities currently offered only to different-sex couples through marriage.
"Illinois is taking an historic step forward in embracing fairness and extending basic dignity to all couples in our state. We commend Governor Quinn for signing this bill," said John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois.
The measure was first introduced in February of 2007 by then-newly elected Representative Greg Harris.
On December 1 of last year, the Illinois Senate approved the bill 32-24, sending the measure to Governor Quinn. That move came one day after the bill passed in the House by one vote.
"This new law reflects the triumph of hope and fairness over distortion and division," said Jill Metz, President of the ACLU of Illinois Board of Directors.
The new law counts Illinois among 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, that recognize some form of protection for committed same-sex couples - from limited partnership rights through civil unions to marriage.
"Today marks yet another victory in the clear trend line of achieving fairness for families across the country," said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project.
Although the passage of civil union legislation represents an important step forward on the road toward full equality for LGBT individuals in Illinois, the ACLU continues to work to achieve the freedom to marry for all couples.
"We look forward to the day when Illinois joins other states across the nation by making marriage available for all Illinois citizens," said Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois. "This new law suggests that the day of complete fairness for lesbian and gay couples is not far away in the Land of Lincoln."
The law takes effect June 1.