By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com February 08 2012 3:30 PM ET
On the heels of Tuesday’s federal appeals court ruling for marriage equality in California, Illinois legislators have filed a bill to bring equality to that state.
Illinois’s three openly gay state representatives — Kelly Cassidy, Greg Harris, and Deborah Mell — today introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would grant same-sex couples the same marriage rights as opposite-sex ones.
The state began offering civil unions to gay couples last year, but while “an important intermediate step,” those have turned out to be insufficient, said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of LGBT rights group Equality Illinois.
“In following experiences of thousands of couples in civil unions over the past year, we confirmed what we always suspected to be true: that creating a separate institution to provide substantially the same rights did not add up to full equality under the law,” Cherkasov said in a press release. “A pharmacist who denied prescription pickup to the patient’s civil union partner didn’t think it’s the same thing as marriage. A coroner who refused to issue a death certificate to civil union partner survivor did not think that civil unions are the same as marriage.”
Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda, another Illinois LGBT organization, voiced similar sentiments. The group supported the civil union bill “as an initial step to providing rights and benefits to same-sex couples, but separate is never equal,” he said in a news release. “Marriage has always been one of the principal goals for our organization, and we are pleased to finally be able to move forward towards achieving that goal.”