The Public Square

Richard Mohr on Civil Unions for same-sex couples


I'm Richard Mohr, Professor of Philosophy and of the Classics at the University of Illinois, Urbana.

My partner, Robert Switzer, and I have been living in the Champaign-Urbana community for thirty years. You may have seen us around town. We're the grey bearded couple who sit together in restaurants enjoying the food and each other, but not talking much. That's us hovering over the heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers Market and lining up at Ebertfest. You may have seen us in the News-Gazette in 2003 when we went to Toronto and got married at city hall. The New York Times also ran a picture and article on us. That was funny. For the core of our lives; our life is our taking care of each other, and that shouldn't have to seem newsworthy.

Unfortunately, none of the legal obligations and benefits of marriage that we would have if we lived in Canada currently apply to us here in Illinois. These legal structures are designed to help people take care of each other. They promote the patient caring that lives with others requires, by providing for nurture, mutual support, and persistence and by protecting against those occasions when necessity is cussed rather than opportune, especially when life is marked by crisis, illness, and destruction.

Illinois, though, may soon fill this legal gap. In the last legislative session, a bill was passed out of House committee which would secure legal supports for same-sex couples through civil unions, while separating the issue from entanglements with religion. If passed by the House, and it already looks like there are enough votes in the Senate, the law would join Illinois to six other states whose legislatures have moved towards justice for all couples. Please contact local state representatives Bill Black, Chapin Rose, Naomi Jakobsson, and Shane Cultra in support of House Bill 1826, so that Robert and I can get back to our own business, sniffing melons and squeezing sweet corn at the Farmers Market.