By Erika N. Chen-Walsh
On February 8, 2012, Illinois Representatives Greg Harris, Deborah Mell, Kelly M. Cassidy , and Ann Williams introduced an historic bill, House Bill 5170, entitled the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (“HB 5170”).
HB5170 seeks to amend 750 ILCS 75/1 et seq., otherwise known as the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (the “Civil Union Act”), which became effective on June 1, 2011. The Civil Union Act created a new form of legalized relationship in Illinois for which both opposite-sex and same-sex couples were eligible.
Illinois residents should support the passage of HB 5170 into law. Opponents of same sex marriage argue that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples and that the creation of civil union creates a separate, but virtually equal unionization for same sex couples. History and case law have demonstrated that there is no such thing as separate but equal. In its holding that the segregation of school children based on race was an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection clause, the U.S. Supreme Court held that:
Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. . .To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.
The full text of HB 5170 can be reviewed here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09700HB5170lv&SessionID=84&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&DocNum=5170&print=true.
The full text of the Civil Union Act can be reviewed here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3294&ChapterID=59.