State Sen. Heather Steans, D-7th District, introduced the Equal Marriage Act ( SB 2468 ) , a bill that would grant same-sex couples full marriage rights in Illinois, on the Senate floor Oct. 1.
Steans' action marks the first time that such a bill has been up for debate in the Illinois State Senate and follows similar a House bill sponsored by openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris, D-13th District.
"This bill provides equal marriage rights for same-sex couples across Illinoisa right that is already enshrined in our constitutional language and traditions," Steans said. "Currently, same-sex couples have to fight to visit each other in hospitals, make healthcare decisions, and raise children togetherthis must change."
The Equal Marriage Act has not gone without some controversy however, as both Republican Adam Robinson and Democrat Jim Madiganchallengers to Steans in her upcoming re-election bidhave claimed that Steans' recent bill is a political move devised to pander to her constituents in order to gain more support before the statewide primary elections, which will be held on Feb. 2 of next year.
Madigan stated, "Not once, but twice State Representatives have introduced a marriage equality bill in the Illinois House. Sen. Steans did not sign on as a Senate sponsor of those marriage equality bills since she was appointed in February 2008."
Steans responded to these criticisms by explaining that the two previously proposed equality bills had been introduced only in the House and, as a senator, she was unable to vote for such legislation. Steans also stated that her primary goal with this act was to introduce a bill that would "advance our fight in Illinois to achieve equal rights for same-sex marriage."
If passed into law the Equal Marriage Act would make Illinois the sixth state to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
by STEVEN CHAITMAN
The Evanston City Council approved a measure Sept. 29 to become the second largest city in Illinois to provide same-sex domestic partner benefits to city employees.
The measure passed quickly and quietly without being pulled for questioning, said Evanston openly gay alderman Mark Tendam ( 6th Ward ) , who brought the issue to the attention of City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.
Tendam, who was elected last April along with much of Evanston's current city council, said the previous council had nudged it in the right direction, but that it was Bobkiewicz, in conjunction with the human resources staff, who made it come together so swiftly.
"It was in the works," Tendam said. "It was possibly overlooked at some point it but it was back on track pretty quickly."
All full-time city employeesincluding those in the fire and police departmentswill be eligible for the health benefits. Evanston Director of Human Resources Joellen Daley said those applying will need to sign an affidavit that must be notarized in addition to proof of domestic partnership through three of five possible means. Some of these include joint leases or mortgages, bank accounts and shared living expenses.
City spokesperson Eric Palmer said he believes the approval went smoothly because the new city council consists of rather progressive members.
"I think [ the council ] just decided 'it's time to do this, let's do this,'" he said.
Tendam said that Evanston has always been a diverse city, which was likely why the resolution was met with agreement.
"I think [ diversity ] is another reason no one really questioned it," Tendam said. "It was the thing to do. Hopefully, this will encourage other communities to do the same."
Daley said Evanston has 840 full-time employees, but she doesn't expect a huge impact. Other Illinois communities currently providing the same benefitssuch as Carpentersville, Des Plaines and neighboring Wilmettehave only had two or three employees take advantage, she said.
Those who are eligible will be able to sign up during the city's two-week open enrollment beginning Oct. 26.
Groups speak on
by chasse rehwinkel
In response to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee's current debate over a national healthcare reform bill, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) , the Illinois Public Health Association and the Health Care for America Now held an informational teleconference Oct. 2 to explain the need for immediate healthcare reform.
According to speakers from AFC, approximately 47 million Americans are currently living without an effective healthcare option and that within the AIDS community nearly half of all those living with HIV/AIDS do not have adequate coverage in order to remain healthy.
"The way our system is set up the insurance companies are legally allowed to discriminate against people with certain types of illnesses, such as HIV," stated one AFC leader. "HIV/AIDS groups have a significant role in the fight for healthcare reform. We really have an opportunity here to determine how those living with AIDS get access to healthcare as well as the opportunity to secure preventative care for all American citizens."
According to experts who spoke at the teleconference, comprehensive healthcare reform, meaning a total reworking of the American healthcare system to include a public insurance option, would "increase access to consistent, high-quality, affordable, and comprehensive care for HIV and other health concerns" and increase the overall life expectancy of those living with HIV/AIDS "vastly."
"This is a critical time for healthcare reform in the United States," stated the Illinois director of Health Care for America Now, John Gaudette. "We are hearing now things like spousal abuse is a preexisting condition for some women or that women of childbearing age have a preexisting condition for child birth; we are seeing an uncontrolled abuse of the system by insurance companies and they can do this because of the millions they spend on lobbyists. However, people should know that we are working hard to change this and that in the 100 year battle over healthcare reform this is the closest we have ever gotten to complete change."