Illinois will become the sixth state to allow same-sex civil unions beginning next year. The Illinois House of Representatives approved the historic measure on a 61-52 vote. The legislation now moves to the Senate where it needs at least 30 votes.
SB1716 was supported from the Democratic leadership in Springfield, including Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. Gov. Pat Quinn campaigned on the issue and urged legislators to fast track the bill.
Madonna launches her new brand of "Hard Candy Fitness" gyms in Mexico City, where the rich, thin and beautiful can aspire to workouts inspired by Madonna's fitness routines. If that's not enough, there are always the gigantic Warhol-inspired posters watching you a la Big Sister when you check in. Get ready to pump, don't ever look back, oh baby ...
As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.
Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure—from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness—we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy.
With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.
On Monday, President Obama met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the report.
The Illinois General Assembly is expected to vote this afternoon on the legislation. Supporters are lining up the final votes they need in the Illinois House and are very close, reports ABC 7. "Supporters say they're close to having the 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the House. If it passes there, backers think the Senate quickly would follow suit and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn would sign it into law. 'I do think this is the time for Illinois to do this,' Quinn said. 'This is a good way to show employers—big businesses all across the country—that Illinois treats everyone with tolerance.'"
Opponents are worried about the House’s 18 lame ducks, especially Republicans, reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "David E. Smith, executive director the Illinois Family Institute, said he has heard anecdotally about some lawmakers from conservative areas who aren't returning to office after January and appear poised to support [the] bill."
State Sen. and Rev. James Meeks, the Chicago mayoral candidate and outspoken anti-gay pastor of one of the city's largest mega-churches, is reportedly working "behind the scenes" to "derail its passage". "A source in Springfield tells ChicagoPride.com that Meeks ... has allegedly been working behind the scenes with other African-American ministers to derail passage in the House as an effort to keep the legislation from making it to the Senate, thus relieving the prominent minister from declaring his vote, for or against, on record."
The Catholic Conference of Illinois, which is fighting against the civil unions bill, is apparently so concerned that it could pass the House today that it has issued a statement offering an 11th hour compromise. "We stand ready to work with the legislature and other agencies of state government to prevent unjust discrimination and to provide benefits to people judged by the civic authority as deserving — as long as such provision does not include the attempted redefinition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the sake of family," the statement said.
'"According to a survey sent to 400,000 service members, 69 percent of those responding reported that they had served with someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who did, 92 percent stated that their unit's ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor, according to the sources.
"Combat units reported similar responses, with 89 percent of Army combat units and 84 percent of Marine combat units saying they had good or neutral experiences working with gays and lesbians. At the same time, the report found that 30 percent of those surveyed overall—and between 40 and 60 percent of the Marine Corps—either expressed concern or predicted a negative reaction if Congress were to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law, which allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military on the condition that they keep their sexuality a secret."
"The Defense Department will formally release the report about 2:30 p.m. ET today, but officials are briefing lawmakers and other stakeholders on the findings in advance. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and the report's co-authors, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham will brief reporters later today. The quartet will testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Johnson and Ham concluded that repeal could bring about some limited and isolated disruptions in the short term, but expressed confidence that the Defense Department could adjust and accommodate changes in the long term, according to the sources."
WaPo reported this morning: "President Obama is expected to receive a copy of the report today and will certify its findings along with Gates and Mullen. He met Monday with members of the Joint Chiefs to discuss the report, according to White House officials who did not provide further details."
Kenyan broadcasting network NTV reports on Prime Minister Raila Odinga's calls for the mass arrests of gays and lesbians. It's a fairly balanced report and the reporter questions the impact that Odinga's anti-gay remarks could have on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Activists with Kenya's largest gay rights organization have reported "panic among its members ... especially those who are HIV-positive [who] fear they will be arrested when they collect life-prolonging medicine from government clinics."
Some potentially good news for Ted Olson, David Boies and everyone opposed to Proposition 8: The three-judge judicial panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' hearing on Monday has been announced.
"Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the leader of the 9th Circuit's liberal bloc and often at the center of some of the court's most controversial decisions, will hear the case, along with Michael Daly Hawkins, an Arizona-based judge and Clinton appointee generally considered a moderate but is often more liberal on social questions. The panel, which was randomly assigned and revealed Monday, is rounded out by one clear conservative, Idaho-based Judge N. Randy Smith, one of the court's newest members and a Republican appointee of former President George W. Bush."
"Reinhardt may well be the most aggressive liberal judicial activist in the nation—and the most reversed judge in history. Hawkins, is also regularly on the Left ... With two hard-core liberals, the panel is a fairly typical Ninth Circuit draw—which is to say, a bad one for supporters of Prop 8."
"Officials familiar with the 10-month study's results have said a clear majority of respondents don't care if gays serve openly, with 70 percent predicting that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed or no results. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings hadn't been released. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who have both said they support repealing the law, were scheduled to discuss the findings with Congress Tuesday morning and with reporters Tuesday afternoon."
"Democrats and gay rights groups counter that the study finally proves what they've known anecdotally for years: Most troops would accept an openly gay person in their units. 'It's what we expected. The atmosphere in the active-duty has changed,' said a gay Air Force officer and co-founder of the advocacy group OutServe. The officer uses the pseudonym 'JD Smith' to protect his identity.
The survey is based on responses by some 115,000 troops and 44,200 military spouses to more than a half million questionnaires distributed last summer. The study group, led by Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, also visited various military bases and held town hall-style meetings with service members. The findings of troop opinions would reflect the view of the broader population. According to a November survey by the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans say they favor allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces while 27 percent oppose.
"President Obama is expected to receive a copy of the report today and will certify its findings along with Gates and Mullen," adds the Washington Post. "He met Monday with members of the Joint Chiefs to discuss the report, according to White House officials who did not provide further details."