To The Herald-Whig:
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act was passed in 2010. Beginning on June 1, 2011, all couples, whether heterosexual or of the same sex, could enter into a legal arrangement called a civil union. It is not called a marriage because marriage is still recognized as between a man and a woman. Civil unions were primarily designed for same-sex couples, but anyone seems eligible to enter into a civil union whether straight, gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. A civil union grants to couples all the rights and privileges that accrue to heterosexual couples who are married but without calling it "marriage."
In spite of all the blessings bestowed upon same-sex couples by the civil union act, they still want the right to call themselves married. To satisfy that desire, a bill has been introduced and is pending in the Illinois House to make Illinois the 10th state to recognize same-sex marriage. Illinois seems to be following a pattern similar to one set in motion in California. Some years ago California enacted a domestic partnership law similar to the Illinois civil union law; but the Supreme Court in that state ruled that since couples in a domestic partnership had all the rights and privileges of married couples, calling their arrangement something other than marriage was a form of discrimination against them. The court in California ruled that the term marriage should be extended to include domestic partners.
The voters overruled the court by passing Proposition 8. That proposition stated that marriage was only for heterosexual couples. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to take up the issue, and it will be interesting to see how the court will rule -- for voters or courts.
In Illinois, the supporters of gay marriage want the General Assembly to end the distinction between traditional marriage and same sex marriage, but a better course would be to wait and see what the Supreme Court will do.
With all the cultural shock of the past few years, the passage of a same-sex marriage law is a little too much and too fast for many of us, especially the older generations. For the time being, Illinois should continue to retain the definition of marriage as the joining of a man and a woman, who are then recognized as husband and wife, or wife and husband, if that suits you better.
Paul W. Jackson