Rep. Harris speaks on civil unions

By Michelle Chun

State Representative Greg Harris (D-IL) spoke with University students this Monday at a small discussion group hosted by the undergraduate chapter of the ACLUofC and Queers & Associates (Q&A). Harris is the driving force behind House Bill 1826, also known as the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which was introduced in February 2007. If passed, the bill would establish one of the strongest civil union laws in the United States, granting civil unions to both same- and opposite-sex adult couples in the state of Illinois.

The Act provides civil union couples emergency medical decision-making powers and state spousal benefits, such as worker’s compensation and retirement pension. The bill, which has garnered wide support from both legislators and high school and university students, would also benefit senior citizens who would lose their pensions or part of their Social Security if they remarried.

Rep. Harris represents the 13th district of Illinois and sits on the Committee of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparations and the Committee of Appropriations–Public Safety. He is the only openly gay member of the state legislature, as well as the only member who has publicly admitted to having AIDS. He has advocated on behalf of LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS issues in Illinois.

The ACLUofC is currently spearheading campus efforts in support of the bill, and members will table in the Reynolds Club next week as part of a letter writing campaign.

“We heard speak at the ACLU membership conference last year and thought he was amazing. We especially wanted to invite him here because he brought this legislation to the Illinois House floor and is actively involved in seeking its support,” said Amanda Steele, co-executive director of the ACLUofC.