Friday, June 03, 2011

A good day for love

Yesterday, my native Illinois officially became the latest US state to offer civil unions, giving same-sex couples all the state-level benefits of marriage—without allowing them to actually get married, of course. Several hundred people took out licenses on the first day they were available, and today the first couples became legally joined. A special ceremony with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel was held in the city’s Millennium Park (as covered by Windy City Times, with photos).

Let me clear: This is very important for the couples who, until June 1, had no way to have their relationship recognised by the state of Illinois. When I read the Chicago Tribune account, I was struck by one fact: How long the couples profiled had been waiting for official recognition: From 10 to 47 years—nearly five decades waiting to be treated like a citizen. Talk about the enduring power of love! That’s probably longer than most marriages last.

Even so, civil unions are not marriages, which have universal legal recognition throughout the state. Illinois still needs full marriage equality or, if the “m word” so troubles delicate souls, then Illinois could convert all existing marriages to civil unions and get the state out of the marriage business altogether.

Naturally, the anti-gay industry is in full froth mode (when are they not?). Anti-gay extremist “Porno Pete” LaBarbara, who is head of an SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group, is organising a campaign to try and get a referendum on the ballot to amend the state constitution to outlaw any recognition of same-sex relationships, including civil unions. It’s a legally pointless vanity exercise, which would cost hard-working Illinois taxpayers a lot of money just to assuage Porno Pete’s ego—well, that, and so Porno Pete can use it to raise ever more money, which is kinda the whole point.

Illinois doesn’t have binding citizen-initiated referenda; instead citizens have only advisory referenda—the Illinois General Assembly must take action, which it won’t. That fact makes the bald hatred and bigotry of Porno Pete’s group even more evident. The proposed wording of their referendum statement makes it obvious: “To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.” [emphasis added]

Note the way it apes the tone of the wording in the Preamble to the US Constitution; that’s no accident. The anti-gay industry tries to wrap itself—and it’s hatred—in the US flag, apparently thinking no one will be able to see what hate-filled bigots they truly are. But if this was really about their peculiar religious views, they wouldn’t oppose civil unions, too. Their true agenda is that that they want zero recognition of same sex couples (outlawing civil unions for heterosexuals, too, doesn’t fool anyone about their true intention). In fact, many leaders of the anti-gay industry (AFA, FRC, and others) are openly advocating criminalisation of homosexuality itself and active discrimination against GLBT people, even if that means breaking the law to do it. Yeah, those people are such good Americans—they must be added to Mt. Rushmore at once!

So today we see an important step on the road to full equality for gay and lesbian Illinoisans. Yet we are mindful that it is not yet full equality, and also that there are still enemies waging a culture war to take away even this.

Hatred, bigotry, prejudice, religious intolerance and religious chauvinism have always been with us. But so, too, has love. Today, we have a true victory for the enduring power of love. We must all ensure that love, not hatred, always wins.

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