Meanwhile, Cardinal Francis George has called upon lawmakers to reject civil unions. "Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage," he said in a press statement.
"Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter what a legislature decides to do; however, 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," the cardinal said.
In the statement, issued by the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the church's lobbying arm, George went on to argue, "There is an inherent conflict between this legislation and religious liberty."
The cardinal suggested that civil unions could require faith-based institutions to provide adoptive or foster-care services or an array of other social services to same-sex couples in civil unions. And, George said, the legislation does not protect small businesses if their owners do not wish to extend family benefits to employees in civil unions.
"NOM's attacks on proposed civil unions are as misleading as they are predictable, and I am appalled at the length to which NOM would go to harm our families," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, in a press statement.
"We are especially disturbed at the misleading statements by the [ conference ] and [ the cardinal ] that the law would force churches to recognize civil unions. The bill explicitly states: 'Nothing in this Act shall interfere with or regulate the religious practice of any religious body,'" explained Cherkasov.
Consequently, faith-based clergy and various denominations are ''free to choose whether or not to solemnize or officiate a civil union,'' according to the bill.
Sure enough, civil unions enjoy wide support among people of faith. More than 300 ordained clergy have signed Equality Illinois' Faith Petition to legislators. The signers of the petition represent more than 270 congregations and seminaries from nearly 80 cities throughout Illinois.
Rick Garcia, Equality Illinois' director of public policy, went even further in voicing vexation about George. "The Cardinal is either misinformed on the nature of the bill or is lying," he told Windy City Times. "The bill has nothing to do with adoption, foster care or the status of marriage, and has everything to do with fairness for same-sex couples."
Fortunately, the Illinois House passed the law yesterday, and now it moves to the state Senate and the governor.
Update it passed the state Senate, and now goes to the governor who is likely to sign it.