A Very Civil Editorial
While I have my share of criticisms about much of the recent output of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board (which I'll discuss at a later date), I want to give credit where credit is due. They put out a cogent and thoughtful editorial in support of HB2234, Rep. Harris' bill which would legalize civil unions in Illinois.
In so doing, they recognize the fact that much, but certainly not all, of the tensions over this bill are rooted more in semantics then they are in substance:
Unnoticed in the uproar is that most Americans favor extending the benefits and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples -- just as long as it goes by a different name. Call it marriage, and most people bridle. Call it a civil union, and some 55 percent of citizens are in favor.While Rep. Harris and other advocates of the bill have put in countless hours trying to explain to our colleagues what the bill is, and isn't, about, there are obviously many of them who are nevertheless opposed to the proposal, often times citing moral or religious reasons. It's to this mindset that the Tribune does, IMHO, a great job of setting the record straight.
If it's enacted, gay couples will gain the right to do things that heterosexuals take for granted: make emergency medical decisions and funeral arrangements for a partner, visit each other in the hospital and share a nursing home room. More important, perhaps, it will protect kids by placing same-sex couples that split up under the same rules that govern divorce, while assuring access to survivor benefits when a de facto parent dies.Nothing in HB2234 requires anybody to approve of homosexual couples if they choose not to. Rightfully, nothing in the bill imposes any requirements or restrictions upon any religious institutions or entities. Rather, in a modern-day version of the civil rights struggles of the 60's, the bill simply extends equal legal rights to a class of people that some people would prefer didn't have those rights. The bill should be passed. Now.
By this compromise, the state would promote long-term commitments and the well-being of children. But it would avoid the intense emotions that surge around anything altering the traditional definition of marriage, which for many people has deep religious meaning. Harris' bill stipulates that no religious entity may be forced to bless such unions.