CHICAGO — Illinois joined five other states Monday in legalizing civil unions, a move that will give same-sex couples there many of the legal protections that are now granted to married couples. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in front a crowd of cheering residents during a ceremony in a Chicago auditorium.
“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. “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.”
The provision, which goes in effect on June 1, is called Senate Bill 1716 and creates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. The new law will allow gay and straight couples to enter into civil unions granting them many rights given to married couples.
In addition to Illinois, 12 states plus D.C. have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and D.C. provide marriage to same-sex couples under state law. New York and Maryland recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages, but do not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in state. Five other states — California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington – provide same-sex couples with access to almost all of the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Wisconsin provide gay and lesbian couples with limited rights and benefits, not all rights provided to married couples.