Civil Union Activists Turn to Clergy for Support

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Byline: Mike Riopell and Kerry Lester

SPRINGFIELD -- Gay-rights activists plan to trumpet the support of some members of the clergy in a last-minute push to get approval for same-sex civil unions in Illinois.

Activists plan to take several dozen clergy members of various faiths to the Illinois Capitol today, when lawmakers could vote on the civil unions plan.

"We know your mothers and your teachers taught you to respect the choices people make and the primacy of their choices," Catholic nun Donna Quinn, of Palos Heights, said in a statement.

Quinn, who will travel to Springfield on Tuesday, doesn't represent the position of the Catholic Church -- far from it.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois -- the lobbying arm for all six Catholic diocese in the state -- believes the bill strikes at the "sanctity" of marriage between a man and a woman.

"If you look at what (the legislation) is trying to do, words matter. The words in the bill basically confer all the benefits and protections found in (state) laws regarding marriage today to this new entity. They're just calling it by another name," Executive Director Bob Gilligan said.

Gilligan said the conference would be open to working toward legislation allowing gay couples some of the rights and benefits granted to married couples -- hospital visitation rights, for instance -- but "lumping 500 references in Illinois law in one fell swoop, that has ramifications and consequences. …