LGBTQ Corner: progress in Illinois, France legalizes same-sex marriage

Denny Patterson

Editor’s Note: Within the past two weeks, numerous stories have highlighted steps towards LGBT equality. The fight is far from over.

A step closer in Illinois

Illinois had a reason to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. With a margin of 34-21, the Illinois State Senate voted in favor of marriage equality. The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was sent off to the Illinois House, in which voting will take place in the upcoming days.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans called this “a vote for the history books.” The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, said, “The momentum is building. More and more House members are telling me they want to be on the right of history and that they intend to support the bill.”

If the House approves the bill, Gov. Pat Quinn, a vocal supporter of the legislation, has already promised to sign the bill.
Benefits for same-sex military couples approved
. Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that same-sex partners and spouses of military personnel will now be allowed certain rights and benefits that were once only allowed to heterosexual military spouses. This is one of Panetta’s final duties as defense secretary. The benefits will be available sometime between Aug. 31 and Oct. 1.

In an interview with the Advocate, Panetta said, “Today, our military leaders are ensuring that all America’s sons and daughter who volunteer to serve our nation in uniform are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation. Our work must now expand to changing our policies and practices to ensure fairness and equal treatment and to taking care of all of our service members and their families, to the extent allowable under the law.”

Some of the benefits include emergency leave, youth programs, sexual assault counseling program, joint duty assignments, payments to missing persons, child care and legal assistance. Other benefits such as health care and housing allowances can only be granted once the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed.

French lawmakers approve same-sex marriage

France took a step closer towards equality as lawmakers in the lower house of parliament approved a bill that would extend same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt. The bill was voted through the National Assembly with 329 in favor to 229 against. Ten abstained. Before the bill becomes law, it must go before the senate. If passed, this would be France’s biggest step for gay rights in more than a decade.

The country’s president, Francois Hollande pledged in his campaign last year that he would extend the rights to marry and adopt to same-sex couples.

Unfortunately, not all is going according to plan. The Roman Catholic Church and social conservatives stand their ground opposing the issue. There have been numerous protest marches in Paris for the past few weeks. According to CNN, the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, voiced his opposition saying, “this would be a transformation of marriage that would affect everyone.”

Currently, there is a law in France legalizing civil unions under a previous Socialist government. Known as the PACS (pacte civil de solidarite), the civil union agreement confers many but not all of the rights of marriage.