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Governor Signs Gay|Civil Unions Law

CHICAGO (CN) - Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed a law legalizing civil unions in Illinois, while some 900 members of the gay community and their supporters stood by. The bill gives homosexual couples recognition from the state and many marriage rights, including the power to decide medical treatment for a sick partner and the right to inherit a partner's property.

Illinois law, however, still states that marriage is between a man and a woman and the civil unions are not recognized by the federal government.

The Illinois House passed the bill by 61-52 vote in December and the state Senate passed it 32-24.

Supporters of the bill said it should be passed for basic fairness to all citizens.

Opponents said it could impose unwanted requirements on religious institutions and programs and is a step toward legalizing same-sex marriages.

The law will take effect on June 1.

Illinois joined five other states that allow civil unions, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Five other states - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont - and Washington, D.C. allow gay marriage.

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