While you were sleeping (well, at least right before bed) Illinois' lower house brought the Prairie State one step closer to equality in relationship recognition by passing a civil unions bill that includes many of the rights of marriage.
Before debate began on the bill, Speaker Mike Madigan allegedly looked at openly gay state Rep and author of the bill Greg Harris and said, "It's showtime!" This bill has been pushed by LGBT lobbying groups in the state for the majority of the 2000s but has found mighty resistance in the lower house until now.
This bill, a long-time Illinois Democratic priority, even prompted newly re-elected Governor Quinn to join the legislature on the floor to push for the vote in the final hours. In recent days, every headlining Chicago mayoral candidate--save one, State Senator Rev. James Meeks--from Rahm Emanuel to former candidate for the Democratic nominee for US President and former US Senator, Carol Moseley-Braun; to current US Senator Rolland Burris and Gery Chico have all lobbied the legislature to pass this bill. Rev. Meeks was rumored to have been lobbying against the bill to prevent the Senate vote from forcing him to go on the record.
More about the vote, and what comes next, after the jump.
During the debate, several Republicans and conservative Democrats surprised the progressive community by coming out in favor of the bill and urging colleagues to see relationship recognition as an issue of fairness and equality.
Danville Republican Bill Black--whose last day in the Illinois House will come this week when the House wraps up its work--echoed famed Republican US Senator from Illinois Everett McKinley Dirksen who broke ranks with his party and helped convince other Republican US Senators to vote to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, "But after the historic civil rights legislation, the press was all over Everett McKinley Dirksen. They said, 'How do you explain this? You've never voted for a piece of civil rights legislation in your long career.' I recall Everett Dirksen, in that mellifluous voice, he said, 'There is a time when I'd rather be right than consistent.'"
The bill passed the house with 61 votes for, 52 against and 2 present, not voting. All eyes are now on the senate, who today could deliver this bill (SB1716) to Governor Quinn's desk. The vote is expected to pass there, but if you live in Illinois, make sure you call Equality Illinois's legislative hotline at (773) 477-7173.
Illinois's northwestern neighbor Iowa has full marriage equality for all consenting adult couples. Most Illinois civil unions advocates see civil unions as a step on the way to full marriage equality in the state.