SPRINGFIELD — Danielle Cook of Farmer City, who already has a civil union with her partner, Suzie Hutton, told state senators Tuesday that she wants a full-fledged marriage because "marriage is the standard in our society."
The Senate Executive Committee, in a 9-5 party-line vote, approved a bill (SB 10) allowing gay marriage in Illinois. It now moves to the full Senate, where passage is considered likely. But it may find a tougher time in the House.
"In numerous settings and in ways big and small, we learned that a civil union is not the same as being married," Cook said. "It's not really recognized or understood as marriage is. After getting a civil union, for example, we decided to add Suzie to the health care plan at my work. Everyone and my employer knew that Suzie and I had been together for years. Everyone knew that we were getting a civil union. When I contacted the human-resources department, I was told that we would have to produce the civil-union certificate before Suzie could be added to my plan. That department does not ask anyone for a marriage license, but they asked us for a civil-union certificate."
Further, she noted that forms at doctor's offices have boxes for "single," "married" and "divorced," but not for civil unions.
"The message was sent in other, more personal ways as well. It even came in how individuals responded to learning that we had gotten a civil union," she said.
"Everyone knows how to respond to someone one who announced that they got married — with congratulations and good wishes. Most people did not know how to respond to our getting a civil union."
She asserted that people have less respect for a civil union "because marriage is the standard in our society."
"Marriage is the standard for people who find relationships built on love and common commitment," she said. "Our relationship is a marriage. It's built on love and commitment in the same way that every marriage is constructed. I feel like I am married to Suzie. I want to be married to Suzie. I want our relationship to be given the same respect that only marriage provides."
Also testifying for the bill was the Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Romeoville. She said that churches that do not condone same-sex marriages should not be forced to perform them.
"Likewise," she said, "those of us who believe in marriage equality should have the right to perform marriage ceremonies, and we believe they should be recognized in the eyes of the law as marriages."
But Joseph La Rue, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., suggested several possible scenarios where the same-sex-marriage proposal might limit religious freedom.
"I am extremely concerned that it does not do enough (to protect religious liberty) and in fact, the bill as written, if enacted, will actually infringe on religious liberty and instead of being a religious-freedom act, it will actually become a religious-discrimination act," he said.
He said churches might be required, under the state's public-accommodations law to rent their facilities for same-sex weddings.
He also said churches could be required to hire someone in a same-sex marriage, provided that one of the partners is of the church's faith.
Further, La Rue said the measure "does not provide any protection for the rights of conscience of individual people in a marriage-related business, such as a baker, photographer or even a judge."
"They would have to participate in a same-sex wedding if they were asked," he said. "It doesn't offer protections for people who disagree with same-sex but who will be asked to participate in same-sex marriages because of their businesses."
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, one of the five GOP senators voting against advancing the bill to the Senate floor, predicted the gay-marriage law would lead to lawsuits.
"This is a foothold for litigation," he said.