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Illinois legislature approves same-sex civil unions

The Illinois Senate [official website] on Wednesday voted 32-24 in favor of a bill [SB 1716 materials] legalizing same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. The vote comes a day after the Illinois House of Representatives [official website] voted 62-51 in favor of the bill, which will now go to Governor Pat Quinn (D) [official website] for his signature. Quinn is expected to sign the bill [Chicago Sun-Times report]. The legislation, entitled 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. If signed by Quinn, the legislation will take effect in July 2011. Opponents have cited the fear that its passage is one step closer to the legalization of same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive], which remains a hotly debated issue throughout the US.

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].

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