Showing posts with label Illinois. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Illinois. Show all posts

June 2, 2014

June Brings Legal Gay Marriage to Illinois-bells r’ringing!


                                                                     
        

Because the state's same-sex marriage law took effect Sunday, clerks in most collar counties said they planned to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples Monday morning.
Starting then, couples like the Fagianos who have civil unions can convert them into marriage licenses backdated to when their civil union ceremonies were held. Those who choose to have a wedding can still convert their unions and have the new ceremony date issued on the license, said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander.
Helander, who issued the county's first civil union to the Fagianos three years ago Sunday, said she expected "quite a few" couples to show up for a license Monday morning.
"It will probably be a lot of the folks we saw the first day for civil unions," Helander said. "We served a lot of people that day."
In DuPage County, where nearly 400 couples have civil unions, Chief Deputy County Clerk Paul Hinds said he expected an early morning "rush" of same-sex couples wanting to convert their unions into licenses.
"We're ready to go. The program is all set for the conversion," Hinds said. "I'm sure we'll have couples that don't have a civil union at all that want a marriage license early on … but we really don't know."
The Fagianos planned to go to the Lake County clerk's office early Monday with their 7-year-old daughter, Riley, to get their marriage license with the date of their civil union ceremony: June 17, 2011.
They said that even though they haven't had any trouble proving their union for medical or tax purposes, or that they are both Riley's mom, it will be nice to not have to deal with so much paperwork.
"I used to say 'my wife, domestic partner — whatever box you have to check,' but now I can say 'wife,'" said Michele Fagiano, 35.
To their daughter, it has seemed as if her moms were already married, they said.
"She wanted to know why do we need to do it twice," Shannon said. "We just said that the laws changed."
Although more than 1,600 same-sex couples have been able to get marriage licenses from the Cook County clerk's office since Feb. 21, when a federal judge in Chicago ruled that the delayed effective date of the state law was unnecessary, June 1 still carries significance for many who had waited to hold wedding receptions and other celebrations until Sunday.
The February ruling, which was only effective in Cook County, expanded the decision by another federal court judge to allow a terminally ill woman with breast cancer to marry her female partner before the law's effective date.
"There's a whole lot of things that we have experienced as a community with stops and starts that you don't want to make big plans on," said Tracy Baim, publisher of the Windy City Times newspaper, a weekly publication for the LGBT community in the Chicago area. "I think a lot of people like both the legal and symbolic reason of the June 1 date."
In Rogers Park, 40 couples — gay, lesbian and straight — were married in a group wedding ceremony Sunday evening at Unity in Chicago, according to David Viggiano, co-organizer for the event.
"Now that we have gay marriage we need to push past labeling any marriages as gay, lesbian or straight and talk about marriage equality," Viggiano said. "Unity's thought is that there is one God and many paths to that. One marriage, many paths to that."
Tribune reporters Vikki Ortiz Healy and Dawn Rhodes contributed.
Twitter @skbaer

November 26, 2013

Judge Orders Immediate Marriage for Gay Couple } Terminally Ill

 Gray and Ewart
Vernita Gray and Pat Ewart in 2010. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune / September 10, 2010)

 
A same-sex Chicago couple will be allowed to marry this week after a federal court ordered that the Cook County clerk immediately issue them a marriage license, officials said.

Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert will be issued their license seven months before the state’s gay marriage bill goes into effect because one of the women is currently battling terminal cancer, attorneys said.

The court decision was made Monday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin, and County Clerk David Orr said he would comply.

“As a supporter of same-sex marriage, I’m pleased Judge Durkin granted relief to Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray in this difficult hour,” said Orr in a statement.

“We’re very happy for this ruling for this couple,” said John Knight, a director of the LGBT Project at the ACLU of Illinois. “We understand that this is an incredibly important right for all same-sex couples. If it had not been granted, it would have likely have been unavailable to them. Ms. Gray is simply too ill to wait until June to marry.”
Gray and Ewert filed a lawsuit in District Court on Friday arguing that they should be granted the right to marry before the law formally takes effect in June. The women have been in a committed relationship for more than five years and in 2011 entered into a civil union.
Gray, 64, has lived in Illinois all her life and is suffering from terminal breast cancer. It was her last wish to be formally married to her partner, the couple’s attorney’s said.
“They have had a civil union but marriage is a value that is important to them,” said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, which also represented the couple in court. “To be married here in Illinois where they live is crucial. It’s something Vernita held as a dream for a while.
“There were also tangible benefits that would have been denied them,” Taylor explained. “For example, if they are not married in their civil union and Vernita passed away, Patricia would be forced to pay for an estate tax. A civil union doesn’t exempt you from that.  There are also federal laws that require a valid marriage before someone can access family medical leave.
“There are challenges for couples that seek social security benefits if they are in a civil union but not a marriage including benefits for survivals,” Taylor said. “One of Vernita’s concerns was her ability to take care of pat when she goes. Once they are married, that will make a difference to Pat’s situation financially.”
Gray and Ewert were unavailable for comment on Monday night. But their attorneys said they were thrilled by the decision.

November 21, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust! Illinois Signs Gay Marriage into Law

  Hundreds of people have begun streaming into the University of Illinois-Chicago Forum this afternoon to witness Gov. Pat Quinn sign a historic measure into law that will see Illinois join 15 other states in allowing gay marriage.
Casey Cameron, 38, traveled from Downstate St. Elmo for the bill signing, saying it represents a huge step forward for the gay rights movement given the intense fight that took place just years ago to ensure gays and lesbians had equal access to housing and employment opportunities on Illinois.
 "It took a long time and a very tall mountain to get that, and to finally see this is quite an amazing bit of accomplishment for the state," Cameron said.
Cameron also noted the significance of same-sex marriage begging legalized in Lincoln's home state.
"The whole vision of Lincoln was setting free an entire group of oppressed people, and that's what's happening today in his state, which is also my state."
Seth Hannen, 20, of Downstate Tremont, said he hoped the new law would give hope to gay teenagers facing adversity by demonstrating they are equal to their peers.
"I grew up in a very small, conservative school district. I was he first out kid in my school district and I was teased a lot for who I was," Hannen said. "If we make this legal, it normalizes it, it makes it more of an accepted thing and that will filter into the rest of society so in ten years that boy who was like me in high school won't have an issue."
Officials are expected 3,000 people to pack a main room and have set up an overflow area to watch the 3:30 p.m. signing on TV. Those coming in are being screened by security and have been advised not to bring large bags, backpacks, sharp objects, umbrellas, strollers, liquids or signs.

The Democratic governor has brought up the desk from Springfield that his administration says President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address. That speech, delivered on March 4, 1861 as the Civil War was unfolding, called on Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.”

The stage is decorated in several dozen flags, alternating between the U.S. flag, the state flag and rainbow flags representing the GLBT community.

Seats are adorned with programs and miniature rainbow flags featuring the outline of the state of Illinois.

The celebratory tone is a marked departure from late May, when the legislation stalled in the House to the bitter disappointment of advocates who had been pressing for a vote on gay marriage since shortly after Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011.

Supporters soon launched a summer lobbying blitz that was buoyed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of receiving federal benefits. While hailed as a major victory, the move created a situation in which gay and lesbian couples living in states that recognize same-sex marriage have more rights than their counterparts in states that haven't legalized gay marriage.

Suddenly, advocates were given a clear narrative as to why civil unions fell short in the protections they were designed to provide Illinois couples.

“It was huge,” said sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago. “A lot of my colleagues asked why the next step of providing marriage was needed when there was no tangible benefit, but once the Supreme Court ruled that argument just crumbled.”

Harris said the ruling, combined with shifting public opinion in favor, helped accelerate the speed at which gay marriage was approved in Illinois. But it was not without some bumps along the way, including several legislative setbacks that even saw Harris the target of some gay rights advocates who weren’t happy with the way he was handling the bill.

Ultimately, the legislation got the final boost it needed after powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan intervened. Madigan, who represents the city’s Southwest Side, is also chair of the state Democratic Party – meaning he controls the purse strings to large chests of campaign money that could be vital should one of his members face a primary challenge over their decision to vote in favor gay marriage.

Meanwhile, opponents led by religious organizations say they fear the measure doesn’t go far enough to protect their rights. While the bill would prevent religious groups from being forced to perform or host wedding ceremonies for gay couples, they argue faith-based organizations may be forced to provide health insurance to an employee’s same-sex spouse.

Further, opponents contend the measure has little to no protections for wedding photographers, bakers or other service providers who could face legal action if they refuse to work for same-sex couples due to their religious beliefs.

Under the bill, the definition of marriage in Illinois would change from an act between a man and a woman to one between two people. Once signed, civil unions could be converted to marriages within a year of the law going on the books. Approximately 6,500 applications for civil unions have been filed since 2011, with about 4,000 originating in Cook County.

Even after Quinn signs the bill into law, it won’t take effect until June 1. Some lawmakers are pushing a separate bill that could move up the start date by several months.

Cook County officials say they’ve begun preparing for what they expect to be a huge demand for wedding licenses on June 1, which is when ceremonies can begin under the legislation. That date falls on a Sunday, but a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr said his office will be staffed and ready. That includes the possibility of providing special waivers so couples don’t have to wait until the day after receiving their wedding licenses before they can be married.

There’s also the possibility that the June 1 date could be moved up under legislation backed by Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park. If that bill is passed, gay marriage would go into effect when the governor signs the proposal into law. It’s possible the measure will be voted on when lawmakers return to Springfield after the New Year, though they face a light schedule before the March 18 primary election.

Harmon said he's weighing whether it's fair to ask his colleagues to take another difficult vote so soon after voting for gay marriage, acknowledging a later effective date was the trade-off for getting the measure passed this year because a delay in implementation meant just 60 votes were needed to pass the bill instead of 71.

But Harmon said he was worried that declining health or other circumstances would mean some couples who've spent years waiting for the right to marry may not be around by the time ceremonies can be conducted.

"I'd just hate to leave people poised on the precipice of equality to be told they can't commit - yet," said Harmon.

Sponsoring Rep. Harris said he’s focused on getting the bill signed before taking up the possibility of moving up the start date, adding that in several decades gay marriage will be the norm not the exception.

“We’ve had ten years of history with this in states across the country, and what has happened is that families are protected, couples are happier and children are taken care of and then life goes on,” Harris said.

Illinois had been poised to become the 15th state to legalize gay marriage when lawmakers approved the legislation earlier this month, but was beat to the punch when lawmakers in Hawaii passed same-sex marriage, which was quickly signed into law by their governor last week.
Clout Street

mcgarcia@tribune.com
Twitter @moniquegarcia 

October 23, 2013

Gay Couples and Allies Rally at Illinois State Capitol to Pressure Lawmakers


Timing hurdle to gay marriage vote

Gay marriage supporters flocked to the Capitol grounds by the busload Tuesday, waving rainbow-colored flags and wearing rain-soaked bridal veils to pressure lawmakers to make Illinois the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions.
The show of force that police estimated at 3,000 people ran up against the political reality that there's little indication the Illinois House is any closer to approving a gay marriage bill than it was before a summer of lobbying efforts. Lawmakers are waiting to see whether they face difficult re-election efforts, and religious groups opposed to the bill plan their own rally Wednesday.
The situation has created a sharp divide among advocates who are split on how sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris should proceed. On one side are those demanding that Harris call the bill even if the support isn't there, arguing that lawmakers should be held accountable while also making it clear who should be targeted as potential backers. On the other side are those who contend that pragmatic politics should not be ignored, contending a failed vote would set back efforts to get the bill passed and send a bad message.








The tension was on display through the day, as some in the crowd shouted "Call the vote" while Harris spoke. Others took to the stage in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln's statue to declare they were prepared to vote out of office lawmakers who got in the way — including Harris.
Harris, a gay lawmaker who represents a North Side House district, acknowledged the divide but said the end goal was the same. He said he wasn't concerned about potential backlash at the polls, saying he's fighting for more than his personal political future.
"People can have their opinions on tactics and strategies all they want, but at the end of the day the issue here is about moving Illinois into the column of states that treats all of its families with equal dignity, strengthens our communities and puts us on the road promised by our forefathers to form a more perfect union," he said.
Harris continues to decline to divulge how many lawmakers are prepared to vote "yes" for the gay marriage bill or to discuss the possible timing of a vote. But Harris said his colleagues "should realize that they are going to have a chance to be a part of history."
Exactly when they'll get that chance is unclear. Lawmakers will start filing re-election paperwork at the end of November, so casting a vote for gay marriage now would leave a month or so for challengers opposed to it to gather enough signatures to get on the March primary ballot.
That's left some lawmakers suggesting that a vote should be delayed until after January, when they will know who they are running against. The lack of urgency looming over the General Assembly's fall session was underscored when lawmakers canceled Thursday's planned session.
While opponents of gay marriage plan a Wednesday demonstration at the Capitol, their presence was made known Tuesday when Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki issued a statement declaring that gay rights advocates would not be allowed to enter a downtown church to pray for same-sex marriage, as they had planned.
Paprocki said the plan by demonstrators to pray for gay marriage amounted to blasphemy, but he noted that "our cathedral and parish churches are always open to everyone who wishes to repent their sins and ask for God's forgiveness."
Gov. Pat Quinn, a practicing Roman Catholic, has vowed to sign the gay marriage bill if it reaches his desk. He called Paprocki's stance "disappointing" and said he decided to support same-sex marriage against the teachings of the Catholic Church as a matter of "conscience."
"I believe everyone of faith should listen to their conscience, and I have in my case," Quinn said. "The time for marriage equality has come. This is our time. This is our moment."
Twitter @moniquegarcia

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