This week, I was a panelist on Ken Davis' Chicago Newsroom:
Sometime this week – possibly even today -- Illinois may make history by passing a civil unions law that will grant same sex couples all the rights of marriage except one: the ability to call their union what it really is.
Governor Pat Quinn favors same sex marriage but backs civil unions as what’s possible.
And that seems to be the bottom line: in the year 2010, in the land of Lincoln, civil unions are all same sex couples are going to get: some kinda legal.
“Right now, it looks very good,” says Greg Harris, 13th district state representative and the law’s principal and most dogged sponsor. “Would I like to see same sex marriage? Yes, of course, but as you look through the struggles of every movement, you’ll see that everything is done in steps. Civil unions is a step.”
The law will entitle same sex couples to “the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses.”
Orlando Luis Pardo, a writer and photographer based in Havana, is one of the handful of friends who stepped up to guestblog last summer while I was off getting married and honeymooning. His written work is quirky and smart and I enjoy following it but his photo blog, Boring Home Utopics, is pretty permanently bookmarked because it always takes me back to Cuba in very real ways. Recently, Orlando gave up his space, in a way, for a curious project currently on exhbit at the Fototeca in Old Havana which was produced by Cuban photographers Carlos Otero and Enrique Rottenberg.
Called "Dormir con ..." (Sleeping with ..."), it chronicles beds and bedrooms throughout the island, those ultimately intimate spaces where we embrace our deepest dreams. The photos need little comment, though I found Orlando's presentation of Carlos and Enrique's work almost as haunting as what the images themselves show. Instead of simply loading up digital versions of the photographs, Orlando took his own photos of the exhibition. So these are photos of photos, the shadowy reflections of the gallery visitors creating a whole other layer of meaning.
It may seem like an even exchange: weary David Axelrod comes home to Chicago, sees the fam, and starts gearing for 2012, while David Plouffe, the Obama campaign’s brainy strategist, finally takes a public White House post.
But part of makes these two work so well is that they complement rather than mirror each other. And right now Axelrod needs a break while Plouffe comes in relatively rested. Frankly, this may be the best move the White House has made in a while.
Senior adviser to the president was never the job Axelrod wanted – he initially said he wouldn’t take it, then said he wouldn’t stay more than a year and, now, two years on and a devastating midterm election later, we all wish he’d listened to his gut. Gaffe-prone of late, Axelrod needs to come home to Chicago to rest and re-charge.
It’s important to remember that, long before he became the founder of one of he most successful political consulting firms ever, he was a journalist. And the singular quality that good reporters share – and have no doubt that Axelrod was a very good reporter – is the ability to listen. Second to that is the ability to distill.
As I write this, Congress is gearing to come back to work for its lame duck session – a last chance Texaco before the new, more conservative class takes over as midterm victors.
And Harry Reid, Democratic majority leader on his last hurrah, has already indicated that his top priority bills are a stopgap economic measure and the Bush tax cuts, which everyone suddenly seems to agree on in principle but which no doubt will consume the entire two weeks before Thanksgiving in hashing out just exactly how much they disagree in fact.
Off that legislative list? The defense budget authorization bill. And even if it were to somehow miraculously re-appear on the agenda, it’s quite likely it would be without the amendment to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," the odious policy which bars openly gay people, no matter how qualified or committed, from serving in the U.S.