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Illinois signs civil unions bill into law

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The law will go into effect on June 1
  • The law will give same sex couples rights such as hospital visitation, adoption and parental rights
  • Some groups in Illinois have objected to the law

(CNN) -- Illinois joined five other states Monday in legalizing civil unions, a move that will give same sex couples many of the legal protections that are now granted to married couples.

Governor Pat Quinn signed the law in front a crowd of cheering residents during a ceremony in a Chicago auditorium.

"Today is an important day in the history of our state because today we are showing the world that the people of Illinois believe in equality for all," Quinn said. "We look forward to individuals and businesses from across the country choosing to move to Illinois where we believe that everyone is entitled to the same rights."

The provision which goes in effect on June 1 is called Senate Bill 1716 and creates the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act.

The new law will allow same sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions granting them many rights given to married couples.

These rights include automatic hospital visitation rights, the ability to make emergency medical decisions for partners, the ability to share a room in a nursing home, adoption and parental rights, pension benefits, inheritance rights, and the right to dispose of a partner's remains, the governor's office said.

"In addition to Illinois, five other states and the District of Columbia have civil unions or similar laws on the books. Those states include California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington," the governor's office said.

But some groups in Illinois object to the new law

Illinois Family Institute, a non-profit group that says it wants to reaffirm marriage in the state, called the law "divisive."

"Gov. Quinn should reject this anti-family bill and reject the efforts of the homosexual lobby to impose this highly contentious and controversial policy on the people of Illinois," said David E. Smith, executive director of the group.

But couples like Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe said the new law will dramatically change their lives.

It gives them the rights that other families have when it comes to their six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, they told CNN affiliate WLS.

"Our son actually has some illnesses, so going into the hospital, being able to say that we can both be in the room with him and make decisions without too many questions, just makes it easier for us," Santos told the affiliate.

 
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