In the latest victory for gay rights advocates, same sex couples in Illinois are lining at courthouses across the state today to receive licenses binding them in civil unions.
Illinois became the sixth state, along with the District of Columbia, to recognize civil unions for same sex and heterosexual couples when Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act in January. Today is the first day that the law takes effect.
The law gives couples in civil unions many of the same rights as married couples, including automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions for partners, the ability to share a room in a nursing home, adoption and parental rights, pension benefits, inheritance rights and the right to dispose of a partner's remains.
The push for LGBT equal rights seems to be gaining momentum. Civil unions recently became legal in Delaware and Hawaii, although the laws do not go into effect until 2012. Other states have witnessed a renewed push for similar legislation -- in New York, governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have argued passionately for the legislature to pass a bill. The Obama administration recently signaled its support by ordering the Justice Department to cease arguing to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act.