Illinois governor says he will sign civil unions bill in early 2011

Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.)

Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.)

Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.)

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) said Friday that he will delay signing until next year the recently passed bill granting civil unions to Illinois residents.

The delay has has little effect on the bill — the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act — approved this week by the Illinois General Assembly, establishing legal protections for same-sex couples across the state.

Quinn, who has promised to sign the civil unions legislation, said Friday he expects to hold a bill-signing ceremony early in the new year. After he signs it, the law will go into effect in June.

“The passage this week of the civil unions legislation was historic. It’s a landmark law, it’s headed my way and I think it will be the law of the land of Lincoln in the coming year,” Quinn said.

The law would grant official recognition to gay couples and give them rights including inheriting property when a partner dies, the authority to make medical decisions for each other and to live together in a nursing home, in effect allowing civil unions.

The civil unions success is the latest in a quickly evolving attitude about gay rights in Illinois.

Only five years ago, lawmakers passed protections against discrimination in jobs and housing for gays and lesbians. It took decades to pass that measure. Illinois has moved toward more liberal stances on social issues since Democrats took control of state government at the start of 2003.

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