The Public Square

Kathie Spegal on equality for all committed relationships


Being lesbian or gay in a predominantly straight world carries the same challenges and risks as being black in a white world or being female in a male oriented society. Assumptions about how I live, who I associate with, my so-called lifestyle, are rampant.

The part you don't know is that I am ever so normal in that I have children and grandchildren, a job, a house, hobbies and interests that keep me busy in this community. If you were to have me participate in a line-up, nothing about me would single me out as lesbian ? unless I choose to reveal that to you.

What you also cannot see are the benefits that are denied to my partner and me because we are of the same sex. She cannot be on my insurance policy, she cannot direct how I am buried. She cannot receive medical information about me or share a room in a nursing home. She can't inherit our home or be the beneficiary on my retirement. These perks are all automatic to opposite sex couples.

The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act that is currently being considered will relieve some of these inequities for us and for opposite sex couples who cannot or don't want to get married. For the elderly who rely on a dual income to support themselves, it may even be punitive to be married.

This act will not change the federal issues such as income tax filing but it will affect any Illinois statutes and will standardize what comprises a Civil Union for all residents. Currently, different governmental entities have their own guidelines but these are not recognized out of that jurisdiction.

This act also recognizes that not all religious denominations wish to recognize these Unions. The bill's language refers to legal rights and responsibilities and provides protection for both opposite and same sex partners.

I urge you to contact your representative and let him or her know that you support this legislation. I have heard that some local legislators who may personally support Bill 1826 assume that their constituents do not. Pick up the phone and make a call or send a personal letter to Representatives, Black, Jakobsson, Cultra or Rose to voice your support.

I look forward to the day when it will be harder to pick me out of the crowd because I will be just like you.