On June 1, 2011, Illinois became the latest state to enact a civil unions measure allowing some legal rights for gay and lesbian couples. The gained rights include hospital visitation, the ability to make emergency medical decisions, adoption and inheritance rights. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the civil unions into law in January.
“Today is an important day in the history of our state because today we are showing the world that the people of Illinois believe in equality for all,” Quinn said at the time. “We look forward to individuals and businesses from across the country choosing to move to Illinois where we believe that everyone is entitled to the same rights.”
Illinois is now one of six states that offer civil unions to same-sex couples in place of marriage rights. Gay couples are currently allowed to marry in five states — Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut — and the District of Columbia.
Yesterday, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions for the state's same-sex couples. In doing so, Hawaii became the seventh state to enact civil union legislation for same-sex couples.
Hawaii's state Senate voted to pass the legislation by a 19 to 6 margin, while the House voted 31 to 19.
According to Hawaiian ABC affiliate KITV, the law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, though equality advocates in the state are already celebrating.
Illinois became the latest state to recognize legal same-sex unions today when Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the Illinois Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act, allowing civil unions for the first time in the state. The unions will begin June 1.
"Illinois is taking an historic step forward in embracing fairness and extending basic dignity to all couples in our state. We commend Gov. Quinn for signing this bill," said John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois.
Camilla Taylor, senior staff attorney at the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal, announced the launch of Civil Union Tracker, a resource for Illinois couples and families considering a legal union in the wake of the new law.
Illinois will begin offering civil unions to gay and straight couples next summer, after the state legislature approved a bill last week.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will hold a ceremony in January to sign the bill into law, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Dec. 5. The law will then take effect in June.
“The passage this week of the civil unions legislation was historic. It’s a landmark law, it’s headed my way and I think it will be the law of the land of Lincoln in the coming year,” Quinn told the Associated Press.