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Quinn to sign civil union law

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Gov. Quinn will enact legislation that will allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions during a bill-signing ceremony Monday that could go down as one of the largest in state history.

The governor’s office has been publicizing the bill-signing for a week and expects as many as 1,000 people to show up at the ceremony, which will be held at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of interest in participating in what is a pretty historic moment. There’s only a limited number of states that allow civil unions, and a smaller amount that allow gay marriage,” Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan said.

“What we wanted to do was just make it as public as we could, and the response has been overwhelming,” she said.

When the governor’s office signaled he would sign the legislation, it asked those interested in witnessing the event to RSVP. In the first 12 hours after that initial notice, 200 people responded, Callahan said.

Once Quinn adds his signature to the legislation, Illinois will become just the sixth state to recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships. Six states and the District of Columbia recognize gay marriages.

The legislation, which does not alter state law recognizing marriage as being between a man and woman, would grant gays and lesbians new rights involving their partners regarding hospital visits, health-care decision-making and the disposal of remains and estates.

“The turnout is going to be beyond anyone’s expectations,” said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief House sponsor. “What people are saying to me is this is going to be a historic moment. I had a couple of women tell me they had waited 28 years for this and wanted to be there when it finally happens.

Those who RSVP’d to the governor’s office will be seated first, then the remainder of seating available will be divvied up on a first-come, first-serve basis, said Callahan, who urged anyone interested in attending to leave large bags and strollers at home.

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