Illinois Takes Step Forward for Gay Rights

Illinois reached a milestone this week when Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation making civil unions for gay couples legal in the state of Illinois. Illinois may be late to the game, but I’m thrilled to see we’ve finally thrown on a jersey and stepped up to the plate.

I’ve been a supporter of gay rights since before I even understood what it means to be gay. How is that possible? Well, let me take you back nearly two decades to meet a 9-year-old me standing in a crowd on a downtown Rockford, Ill., street. I’m helping several strangers hold up a parade banner. I can’t remember what it says; all I know is that it had something to do with my uncle, who passed away that year from pneumonia, a common cause of death for people with AIDS. We were to walk six miles that day in support of AIDS research, and my family and several of my uncle’s friends got together to walk in his memory.

It’s difficult to forget that day, and not just because finishing the entire walk-a-thon made my feet throb even when I was sitting. No, I’ll always remember that day because I met so many people who loved my uncle and felt grateful to have had him in their lives. He was never my “gay uncle who died of AIDS.” He was just my uncle, who died at a tragically young age.

Fast forward to today. Civil unions are now legal in Illinois, and I can’t help but wonder if I’d be celebrating with my uncle this week like so many others are celebrating. Would he be dating someone right now who he’d love enough to want to have a civil union with? Would we be having discussions about ways to push the government to make gay marriage legal so he and his partner could get married instead? After all, wouldn’t I want the same rights afforded to my uncle that I currently enjoy as a heterosexual woman?

I know this is just a small (and controversial) step toward equal rights, but I’m still celebrating — for my uncle, for my friends, and for anyone else who’s been fighting for gay rights.

Love and courage,

Mika

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~ by Mika Doyle on February 4, 2011.

4 Responses to “Illinois Takes Step Forward for Gay Rights”

  1. So touching, Mika. My best friend from high school is marrying her fiance this summer in Door County. I say “marry” because that’s what it is…all except legally. At least Kate and Kelly will now have most of the same legal rights as “married” couples.

    • Thanks, Tricia. And congratulations to your friend and her fiance! I’m glad they at least have the option of a civil union now, even if it’s not full legal marriage.

  2. Beautifully written! It’s sad that there is so much struggle over and adversity towards equality. Glad to see some progress is being made.

    -Caitlin

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