Illinois to allow civil unions for same-sex couples

CHICAGO (BestGrowthStock) – Illinois on Wednesday was poised to become the 10th U.S. state to give spousal rights to same-sex couples, after a measure allowing civil unions narrowly won enough votes in each house of the legislature.

The Illinois Senate voted 32 to 24 in favor of the law, two more votes than needed, following the House’s approval on Tuesday by a 61 to 52 margin, one more vote than required.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn promised to sign the law, which takes effect in July 2011.

It gives gay couples new rights normally reserved for spouses regarding such things as hospital visitation, making health-care decisions, and matters concerning probate of a partner’s estate.

The Illinois law does not alter state law that recognizes marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Vermont in 2000 became the first state to make civil unions legal, and in 2009 passed a law allowing same-sex marriages, which made the civil unions law obsolete.

Connecticut and New Hampshire followed a similar route as Vermont, while New Jersey allows civil unions.

Massachusetts and Iowa also allow gays to marry, but California stopped granting marriage licenses to gay couples pending court action after voters approved a referendum barring the practice.

Domestic partnerships that provide some spousal rights to unmarried couples are the law in Hawaii, Maine, and Wisconsin.

Opponents of the Illinois law said allowing civil unions opened the way to gay marriage, with one Republican state representative arguing that the law would contribute to the decline of civilization.

(Reporting by Andrew Stern, editing by Greg McCune)

Illinois to allow civil unions for same-sex couples