Geof Stone on Civil Unions in Illinois

Civil Unions in Illinois: One Small Step
Geoffrey R. Stone
Huffington Post
April 5, 2009

By a vote of five-to-four, an Illinois House committee on Thursday approved House Bill 2234, the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act. If adopted, the Act will provide those individuals who enter into civil unions, including both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, with "the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits" as are afforded by Illinois law to married individuals. What were the four representatives who opposed the Act thinking? After all, we let murderers, pedophiles, drug dealers and rapists get married. But they don't want to let people who love and care deeply for each other, people who have led good and decent lives, even to have civil unions - because they are gay? What could they possibly have been thinking?

It's possible, of course, that they thought they were merely supporting the views of the majority of Illinoisans. After all, we live in a democracy, so it is only natural that elected representatives should follow the wishes and preferences of their constituents. On this view, their votes were an example of democracy in action. Think again. Every public opinion poll in recent years shows that a substantial majority of Americans favors the recognition civil unions (if not same-sex marriage). Indeed, a compilation of a dozen such polls, ranging from Fox News, to Gallup, to Newsweek, to CBS, to ABC/Washington Post, to Quinnipiac, reveals that Americans favor the legal recognition of civil unions by an overwhelming 60% to 34%.