Civil unions still not OK in Indiana

June 3, 2011

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(Getty/Scott Olson)
Shanelle Moffett, left, and Tenisha Watkins embrace at their civil union ceremony in Millennium Park on Thursday in Chicago.

Tyona Wesley says she’s happy for same-sex couples who can now join in civil unions in Illinois.

The 36-year-old wishes her own state of Indiana were as open, but Hoosier lawmakers are actually pushing hard to make sure its ban of same-sex civil unions can never be changed. 

Wesley, who lives in Gary, says even if she were to go through a ceremony with her partner of eight years, Indiana wouldn’t accept it.

“It’s quite sad that if we were to have a civil union in Illinois that when you cross the state line it’s not recognized in Indiana,” Wesley told WBEZ on Thursday.

Indiana already has a law that bans same-sex marriage.  But earlier this year, Indiana lawmakers approved a measure to make that law even stronger. They want to amend the state’s constitution to limit marriage between a man and a woman.

The thought is by including the prohibition in the state’s constitution, it would be much harder for future lawmakers to change it.

But before it’s added to Indiana’s constitution, it must go through several more steps – including a statewide referendum – to be made in official. The process will take years.

Still, Wesley says she longs for such a civil unions law in Indiana. And, to see Illinois same-sex couples join in a civil union is even tougher for her because she was born in Chicago.

“I’ve already talked to my partner about moving to Illinois because it makes a big difference. My partner has multiple sclerosis and I have rheumatoid arthritis. Just the fact of having the right to be in the hospital, to have the knowledge of what’s going on with your partner makes a big difference. I would love for that to be in Indiana,” said Wesley, who is the organizer of Northwest Indiana’s only gay pride parade. The 4th annual parade kicks off June 11 in Gary’s Miller Beach section. 

Thirty-five same-sex couples participated in Thursday’s civil union ceremony at Millennium Park, including a couple from South Bend, Indiana.

Courtney Greve, a spokeswoman for Cook County Clerk David Orr, says in order for the civil union to be made official, it must be conducted in Illinois.

“For civil union licenses, the most important thing is where the ceremony is going to occur. If your ceremony is going to be held in Chicago, you must get your license in Cook County,” Greve said.

When asked if Cook County is concerned that civil union licenses may not be accepted in Indiana, Greve said, “That’s not an issue for our office. Our office is charged with issuing the licenses.”

Indiana lawmakers adopted a law in 1997 that specifically voids a marriage between same-sex couples even if it was done in a place that allows it.

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