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Civil Unions In Illinois: With Quinn In, Could State See Civil Unions Before Christmas?

First Posted: 11/10/10 11:09 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:10 PM ET

Gay Marriage

As the campaign season drew to a close for Governor Pat Quinn, he publicly vowed to fight for civil unions--whether he was elected or not.

Now, Quinn is in for a full term, and some predict a vote to recognize civil unions among same-sex couples will happen soon.

"I think we're awfully darned close," Rep. Greg Harris told the Chicago Sun-Times. Every year, the openly gay Harris sponsors two bills in the House-- one legalizing civil unions, and the other for gay marriage.

In an October interview with the Daily Herald, Quinn agreed.

"The votes are there, I believe." Quinn told the paper. "In the Senate for sure, and definitely I think we can do it in the House."

But the Sun-Times reported Wednesday that support among Illinois legislators could be wavering following last Tuesday's retention vote in Iowa. Iowans voted not to retain three judges due to their ruling in Varnum v. Brien, the case that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

"Civil unions, for all intents and purposes, are practically the same as same-sex marriage," Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told the Sun-Times. "I don't perceive there is a mandate in Illinois on civil unions or same-sex marriage."

Gilligan also told the paper lawmakers should "look at what happened in Iowa" and realize they will be up for reelection once again in two years.

But Gilligan might be misreading where the people of Illinois stand on the issue. In a Chicago Tribune poll released in August, 54 percent of suburban residents said they were in favor legalizing same-sex civil unions. That percentage is even higher in Chicago.

Quinn has also made it clear that he would support a gay marriage bill if "the voters of Illinois want to have it come to pass"--though the votes for that might be tougher to come by.

A vote on the bill could come as early as next week's lame duck session. If it passes, it would be the state's first expansion of gay rights since 2005.

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Filed by Jen Sabella  |