CHICAGO — Illinois lawmakers approved legislation yesterday to allow civil unions, and the governor has indicated he will sign it.
The measure, passed on close votes in both chambers, would make Illinois one of only a handful of states to grant same-sex couples a broad array of legal rights and responsibilities similar to those of marriage.
Advocates of the legislation pointed to the outcome as a sign that acceptance of gay men and lesbians is growing, and not only on the coasts.
“Sober, clear-minded, cautious Midwesterners are taking this action,’’ said Rick Garcia of Equality Illinois, a gay-rights group.
Opponents said they feared civil union legislation might ultimately harm the institution of marriage.
“This will be the entry to a slippery slope,’’ said Ron Stephens, a Republican state representative. “The next thing we’ll see will be consideration of gay marriage.’’
Five states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, while New Jersey allows civil unions similar to Illinois’s measure, which is expected to take effect in July.
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