Breaking News – Civil Unions for Chicago and Illinois is One Step Closer


Springfield, Illinois – Tuesday, November 30, 2010 – Today, the Illinois House of Representatives voted to pass the Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act by a vote of 61 to 52.  After passage by the Senate (hopefully this week) and being signed by Governor Quinn, the Act will take effect July 2011. 

With this vote, the Illinois General Assembly has taken one more step towards equality in Illinois. “Today the Illinois House of Representatives made history,” stated Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda and Co-Executive Director of LGBT Change. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) families in Illinois have gained desperately needed protections that surround the most personal times of our lives.  With this victory, The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) and LGBT Change have verified that our strategy is effective and impacted this vote for the better.”

TCRA and LGBT Change have already shown that their grassroots approach to organizing the community and working with allies has been effective.  In the last election, The Civil Rights Agenda Fund and LGBT Change, working in coordination with a number of allied groups, reached nearly 70,000 LGBT friendly voters and saw a 75% turn-out in targeted precincts across Illinois. The organizations also identified specific races where the stakes were high for LGBT civil rights, and impacted the outcome by driving voters to the polls.  As civil unions came close to a vote, TCRA and LGBT Change used their grassroots strategy to mobilize hundreds of volunteers, made close to 20,000 calls to constituents in target legislative districts and had a continuous lobbying presence in Springfield. 

“When our organizations became engaged in this issue, we realized that Representative Harris, the Chief Sponsor of the Bill, was diligently working in the absence of support from the community and was lacking support from community organizations in critical areas. Immediately we deployed a legislative team and began working to secure votes on both sides of the aisles,” said Lowell Jaffe, Political Director of The Civil Rights Agenda.

LGBT Change and The Civil Rights Agenda will be working together to ensure that those Legislators that voted ‘NO’ will be exposed, targeted and defeated.  We will also ensure that the Legislators that stood by the LGBT Community will be thanked and protected. 

The Illinois Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act will grant the same benefits, obligations and responsibilities of marriage, under state law, while protecting the rights of religious institutions to define marriage as they choose. The major benefits include hospital visitation, healthcare decision making, disposition of a deceased loved one’s remains and probate rights. Civil unions would be available to any couple, same-sex or opposite-sex, in a committed relationship who are:  18 years of age or older, not in an existing marriage or civil union, and are not related. The Act will also provide for the dissolution of civil unions in the same way as divorce. This Act will take effect July 2011. 

“We are finally on the bus,” said Jacob Meister, President of The Civil Rights Agenda, “but we will keep fighting until we are no longer relegated to the back.  For too long the leadership in the LGBT community has been willing to accept ‘separate but equal’ status. The Civil Rights Agenda and LGBT Change’s success with civil unions proves that if we continue to organize and build coalitions, we will reach a point of full civil rights for all people.” 

Additionally, The Civil Rights Agenda and LGBT Change will now turn their efforts to marriage as a matter of full equality.  “It’s time to open a new chapter and start the march toward full marriage equality,” Matty Zaradich, Co-Executive Director of LGBT Change added, “We won’t drink from a separate water fountain; we won’t accept ‘separate-but-equal’ treatment, and we won’t tolerate a government that discriminates against its own citizens.”