Bishops of Illinois urge opposition to civil unions bill

Editor’s note: The following statement was released Nov. 23 by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the public policy arm of the bishops of the state.

The Catholic Bishops of Illinois call upon the Illinois General Assembly to reject Senate Bill 1716, the civil union legislation. Senate Bill 1716 seeks to afford all the “legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits” of marriage to individuals in a civil union.

Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage. The public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage. Moreover, the impact of this legislation on the Church’s social service ministries remains an important and thus far unanswered concern.

This important legislation is being put before a lame-duck General Assembly and more should be done to engage the people in public debate.
If Senate Bill 1716 is passed, there are literally hundreds of references to married “spouses” throughout Illinois’ law to which parties to a civil union would be included. These references are not limited to hospital visitation rights (which are already afforded same sex couples via Presidential Executive Order) or property rights (which can be provided for through legal arrangements). They include benefits from the state Pension Code, the legal guardianship of children and other provisions that govern married life in Illinois.

The enactment of marriage-like benefits in civil union legislation will intensify the legal attack on marriage. It will not appease those who wish to redefine the institution of marriage. We need only look to California,
Connecticut and other states where nearly identical legislation was passed. In every state where citizens have had the right to vote on marriage, they consistently express their support for marriage as the union of one
man and one woman.

There is also an inherent conflict between this legislation and religious liberty. If this bill becomes law, it will not take long before the General Assembly or the courts mandate that Catholic parishes or Catholic agencies provide social services, including adoption or foster care services, to individuals in a same sex union.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” Accordingly, we stand ready to work with the legislature and other agencies of state government to prevent unjust discrimination and to provide benefits to people judged by the civic authority as deserving — as long as such provision does not include the attempted redefinition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the sake of family.

The Catholic Bishops of Illinois ask everyone to call their state representative and senator immediately and urge them to vote NO on Senate Bill 1716. To find your state legislators, go to www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org and click on “Your Elected Officials” on the right side of the homepage or call The Catholic Conference of Illinois at (312) 368-1066 or (217) 528-9200.

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