Illinois may soon consider death penalty, civil union bills

The Catholic Conference of Illinois has asked Catholics to contact their representatives regarding two pieces of legislation that may be considered during the fall veto session in Springfield next month.

The conference, the public policy arm of the church in the state, has urged support for pending legislation to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, and opposition to the so-called “Civil Unions Bill” (Senate Bill 1716). Both are expected to come up during the fall veto session, Nov. 16-18 and Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

“Now is the time to end the death penalty in Illinois,” says a notice on CCI’s Web site, catholicconferenceofillinois.org. “The use of the death penalty when there are other means to protect our society, such as sentences of natural life without parole, weakens the respect for all human life.”

The CCI site offers a sample letter to send to representatives and senators. The names and addresses of legislators can be obtained through a link on the Web site or by calling CCI at (312) 368-1066 in Chicago or (217) 528-9200 in Springfield.

“Ten years after the moratorium of the death penalty was first instituted in Illinois, there are still problems and abuses in the system that cannot be fully prevented, leaving the potential of wrongful convictions,” reads a portion of the suggested letter.

More information on the church’s position on the death penalty is available from the Catholic Mobilizing Network online at catholicsmoblilizing.org.

Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently announced his intention to push for passage of the Civil Unions Bill during the fall veto session.
The legislation provides that parties to civil unions have equivalent legal rights as married spouses.

“It is difficult to appreciate the far-reaching consequences of such a sweeping change,” writes CCI in opposing the legislation.

“We seek to avoid unjust discrimination,” says the conference, but “we oppose this civil unions legislation because it confers legal guarantees, equivalent in every respect, to those granted in marriage.”

While proponents say the bill is not about same sex marriage, CCI disagrees and cites concerns ranging from the redefining of “spouse” to include “a party to a civil union” to religious liberty concerns.

“Will Catholic Charities be required to place foster children or adoptive children with couples in same sex marriages/civil unions?” asks CCI. “Will faith-based institutions, such as schools, be compelled to hire a partner in a same sex marriage/civil union even if it interferes with a core aspect of the institution’s ministry?”

Among concerns Catholics should express to legislators, according to CCI, are the erosion of the natural sanctity of marriage as a union between man and woman, the “slippery slope” towards approving polygamy or other arrangements, and unforeseen legal and cultural impacts of such a change.

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