Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) [official website] signed a bill [SB 1716 materials] on Monday legalizing same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive] in the state. The "Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act," seeks to provide "adequate procedures for the certification and registration of a civil union" as well as to provide "persons entering into a civil union with the obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses." Additionally, it would allow religious institutions within the state to choose whether to observe or officiate the union. Opponents fear that this bill will move Illinois closer to legalizing same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] and will threaten the sanctity of marriage. The new law will take effect on June 1.
Illinois is the seventh US jurisdiction to legalize same-sex civil unions. The Illinois legislature approved the bill [JURIST report] and sent it to the governor in December. In September, 13 state attorneys general joined in an amicus curiae brief [JURIST report] urging the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a federal district court decision [JURIST report] striking down California's ban on same-sex marriage. The brief argued that the district court exceeded its authority because a federal court cannot "reorder this foundational legal and social institution." In July, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (R) [official website] vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have allowed same-sex civil unions. In contrast, several jurisdictions in the US have legalized same-sex marriage. In March, DC became the sixth US jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriages, joining Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts [JURIST reports].