Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Just Fairness, Y'all. That's All.

At 1:50pm yesterday, the Illinois Senate concurred with the House and approved the civil unions bill. I am proud to say that the effort in the Senate was led by my own representative, Peoria Senator David Koehler. C and I will probably be seeing Senator Koehler this Saturday at a downstate Illinois LGBT scholarship fundraiser breakfast we are attending; I imagine the room is going to give him a standing ovation :-)

Here is a fun clip from one of the speeches given on the floor of the Senate yesterday. This is Ricky Hendon, one of the Senators for Chicago's West side, whose rose to counter some of the anti-civil union speeches given yesterday by opponents of the bill.

I hate the hypocrisy! Aren't you sick of the hypocrisy by now? When I sit here and hear adulterers and men cheating on their wives and down-low brothers saying they gonna vote against this bill it turns my stomach! The hypocrisy dripping in this chamber right now! We know what you do at night! [applause, cheering] And you know too.

So let's not play the games. At least tell the truth. You know I'm a Christian. You might not believe it, but I'm a Baptist, saved and sanctified, dipped in the holy water when I was 12 years old. I'm a go to heaven when I die. But I'm gonna vote for this bill. [laughter] It ain't gonna send me to hell, and it ain't gonna send you either...

Don't be a hypocrite... We should pass this bill. We should do it now and get it over with. It's not gonna destroy America. It's not gonna destroy our great state.

It's just fairness, y'all. That's all.

hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Illinois Next for Civil Unions

For the past four years, a bill to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples has languished in the Illinois House. Last year the Senate passed the bill, but political maneuvering prevented it from coming to a vote in the House. Not so this year :-)

Last night I tuned in to the live video stream from Springfield as the House underwent the final debate of the bill before the vote. The normally bustling general assembly chamber fell silent to listen to the impassioned speeches.

One speaker referenced Larry McKeon--a U.S. army veteran, Sheriff's lieutenant, and the first openly gay member of the Illinois legislature--who was forced in 1991 to leave his dying partner's bedside because he did not have the appropriate paperwork.

When Larry resigned from the House in 2006, his seat was subsequently filled by Greg Harris, who became the second openly gay member of our legislature. Greg has been re-elected to that seat ever since. Greg authored the civil unions bill four years ago and has been its chief sponsor in the House ever since. Last night, Greg made the first and last speeches of the debate, at one point breaking into tears as he requested his colleagues vote for justice for their gay and lesbian fellow Illinoisans.

Pat Quinn, our recently re-elected governor, himself entered the chamber to witness the vote. (Quinn has long been a supporter of the civil unions bill and stated multiple times this year that he will sign the bill should it reach its desk.)

The chamber was silent and my heart was pounding when the Speaker of the House called for the vote. Seconds later as the electronic voting was tallied, the galleries erupted in cheering. I couldn't see the electronic voting summary that the galleries could, but I knew what the cheering meant.

The Speaker announced that the bill had passed.

The bill now goes back to the Senate today for a concurrence vote. I remember speaking with Peoria Senator David Koehler about the civil unions bill during a town hall meeting two years ago with my parents in the audience. I was proud to learn that that Senator Koehler is in fact the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate. He was responsible for its passage in that chamber last year, and this year the vote is expected to be easy--not nearly the struggle that it was in the house.

It now appears that Illinois will become the 6th state in the union to create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. We'll know more later today when the Senate is expected to vote on the concurrence bill.

I am beside myself with excitement. I felt like I was witnessing history yesterday.

Of course I immediately phoned my husband to excitedly tell him the good news. Looks like he and I may soon be adding a third anniversary to our relationship :-)

Illinois religious marriage June 14, 2008
Iowa civil marriage July 5, 2009
Illinois civil union ? ?, 2011?

It's complicated and fun to have so many great days on our calendar to celebrate :-)