On Valentine’s Day, the Illinois senate voted on a bill to eliminate the ban on same-sex marriage in the state. In order to show support, the Deerfield High School Straight and Gay Alliance requested that people wear purple, the club’s color. If the bill goes through the house, IL will be the tenth state to allow same-sex couples to wed. Previously, the state allowed for civil unions, which is why many were expecting a same-sex marriage bill to go to senate floor. Civil unions allow for a sort of “close enough” mentality because many feel that civil unions are separate but equal to marriage and that there were more pressing issues to be dealt with. While civil unions are separate, they are very far from being equal. Due to DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) he federal government does not currently recognize civil unions. Over 1,100 federal laws use marital status as a factor in determining protections, benefits and responsibilities. In regards to insurance, the average same-sex couple pays an extra $1,069 a year to receive the health insurance that a heterosexual couple would have for free. A few companies have taken the responsibility to reimburse employees for this, but legally companies do not have to do this, therefore most don’t. Same-sex couples must travel with right of attorney in order to ensure, that if something happens to their significant other, they have rights to make decisions and visitation. Civil unions put same-sex couples at a second-class status in the state.
This is not to say, however, that Illinois is not at the forefront of LGBTQ issues. In fact, our state is one of the few states with laws regarding gender discrimination and protecting trans* individuals, even having training videos for Chicago police officers regarding trans* identities. Although some of these videos and training aren’t entirely correct in their information, it’s a step forward and more than most states have. Removing the ban on same-sex marriage would make it easier for the state to create more laws regarding hate crimes and discrimination otherwise.
On a local level, allowing same-sex couples to marry will promote GSAs in schools, which Deerfield High School is lucky enough to have already. Passing this bill will force schools to legitimize these clubs or groups in schools because the state recognizes equality. This will make school environments safer and more comfortable for LGBTQ students, as even at DHS, one of the best schools in the state, there are many issues that students face. Although we are considered a minority, 1 in 10 people are a part of the LGBTQ community. In a school of roughly 2,000 students, that means about 200 kids are affected by this. As these issues affect me and those I care about greatly , I encourage all people in support to call their congressman and tell them why they support the bill. If you’re a DHS student and want to get involved, the SAGA is always looking for more members. We meet after school on Tuesdays. For more information, contact me at 151ZachariasL@student.dist113.org
To find your representative to contact regarding support for marriage equality: