Illinois Civil Unions, Separate but Equal?

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the age-old lesbian joke, “Q: What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A: A U-Haul.” This joke is obviously an exaggeration, it exists for a reason. While many fight to avoid the cliché, lesbian relationships stereotypically tend to move faster than those of our gay male counterparts, or even heterosexual couples. I know that I was always the first to laugh when one of my friends would meet a girl one day, claim to be “in love” a week later, and then move in after a few months; or at least I was until I became one of them. It’s funny how quickly things can change.

So once a couple moves into together, what’s the next step? Do they get married? Do they start a family? Do they simply make plans to grow old together? The answers to these questions are personal and specific to each individual couple. Unfortunately though for same-sex couples, deciding what you want and legally achieving it are two very different things.

Most of us, especially those of us in the Midwest, were raised in traditional homes where marriage and family are highly regarded values. Of course, not everyone feels that this is important for their relationship; but, for me (and 3 other The L Stop contributors) the next logical step for our relationships was to get engaged. We all got engaged during 2010, regardless of the fact that we knew Illinois would not legally recognize us or the weddings we were planning. While I won’t speak for them, I know for my partner and myself, a legal marriage wasn’t really the point. We really just wanted to stand in front of our closest friends and family and commit ourselves to one another for the rest of our lives.

As an added bonus for us, other previously engaged couples, partners married in other states, partners who held past commitment ceremonies, and future couples, things in Illinois are finally changing. As of January 31, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation, going into effect on June 1, 2011, that will recognize same-sex unions, in the form of civil unions, which will provide couples the same rights of marriage.

While this is definitely a step in the right direction for the state, it’s still not a perfect situation. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited that I will be able to have the same legal rights, especially since upon originally proposing I didn’t think we would have any rights. My frustration stems from the technicalities of the law. My partner and I can enter into a union, but we still can’t be “married.” I don’t know about you, but when I commit my life to someone, I want to be able to call it being married and plan to consider it as such. I want to marry my girlfriend and have our marriage be recognized the same as any other heterosexual couple is.

If it truly is the same rights, why can’t we just call it the same thing? Why do we need to still keep it separate, if it is supposed to be equal? If memory serves, that theory hasn’t exactly worked well for America in the past.

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3 Responses to “Illinois Civil Unions, Separate but Equal?”

  1. Civil Union is not the same thing as marriage. Here is how you know: each year we all get a statement from the Social Security Administration that lists one’s benefits if one retires at certain ages. Then below that it lists the benefits to one’s survivors, i.e. your spouse and childern. If you are in any relationship other than a straight marriage, your survivors get nothing. Civil union is not the same thing as federally recognized marrige.

    Posted by Stephanie Dykes | May 3, 2011, 7:53 pm
  2. Thank you Stephanie! You’re absolutely right, a Civil Union in Illinois will not be recognized on a Federal level, only on State and Local Government levels. I truly hope that one day Civil Unions and Same-Sex Marriages, from any State, is recognized by the United States Government, but unfortunately I think we still have a long way to go on that front.

    Posted by Ashley | May 4, 2011, 11:36 am
  3. I’m still trying to figure out the benefit of entering in to an Illinois Civil Union. If a couple has a will and medical power of attorney then what is the benefit? Can someone enlighten me?

    Posted by Skeptic | May 16, 2011, 8:55 pm

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