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Passages of civil unions a milestone for Illinois

Originally published December 3, 2010

A mere month ago, it seemed like something like this would never happen. A mere month ago, it seemed as if the gay community seemed to be in a dire situation. A mere month ago, we were wondering how we would change the community to be more accepting to homosexuals.

Progress was quick.

On Tuesday, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill allowing civil unions between straight or gay couples that guarantee the same rights as married couples. On Wednesday, the state Senate passed the bill as well, sending it to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois seems likely to join 11 other states and Washington, D.C., to allow civil unions, and although now would seem to be the prime time to complain about the fact that the state will not allow legal gay marriage, this is the time for congratulations.

This is an enormous step forward both for gay rights as well as for the state of Illinois.

A step this enormous is on par with some of the most socially progressive states in the union. The move has catapulted the state, a solid blue one, forward. It’s proof that the majority of our legislators believe all people, no matter their orientation, deserve the same basic rights.

Maybe its time for the people to do the same.

Religious leaders, including Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, and conservatives across the state are crying out, saying this moves the state closer to allowing gay marriages.

They better believe it, because, though a giant leap forward, civil unions are not on par with marriage – and we can’t wait to see actual equal rights for all 12 million or so Illinoisans.

Gays are still one of the most marginalized co-cultures in America. It is a culture that is at best ignored by much of mainstream America, and at worst demonized with its terms of self identification used as derogatory slang by straights.

It doesn’t take long to hear words like “gay” used as synonyms for any number of derogatory terms both in the media and from people everywhere, including on campus.

That’s not to say that the Bradley campus is a hotbed for homophobia by any means. If anything, our campus has proven to be more than accepting to gays and gay culture.

However, the proliferation of gay stereotypes and stereotyping has become a cultural problem that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

Since the close of the sexual revolution in the early ’80s and the isolation of the AIDS virus, there has been a culture wide fear and misunderstanding of homosexual culture that has been reinforced largely by television and film.

It has become a cultural norm to view homosexuality as abnormal, not quite a part of what is acceptable in the United States.

We’re not here to say that suddenly the entire culture is going to change to be more acceptable of homosexual culture, but the passing of this bill in Illinois is an enormous step forward for civil rights for people of all sexual orientations.

This is a message from Springfield that the government at large has changed.

Now it’s time for our culture to change with it.

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