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Simon, other experts discuss civil unions 

Southern Illinoisan
April 4, 2012
By Codell Rodriguez

CARBONDALE — Experts including Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon gathered Tuesday at the Lesar Law Building at SIU Carbondale to discuss the implementation of civil unions in Illinois.

Simon, a former faculty member in the School of Law, was joined by Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of GLBT advocacy group Equality Illinois, and Ray Prather, lawyer and member of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Simon spoke about the 2011 signing of the legislation making civil unions possible, Cherkasov covered the road leading to civil unions and the implementation, and Prather spoke about the Defense of Marriage Act and impact and problems related to civil unions.

Simon said the state took a step forward when the legislation passed and that the right should continue to be defended. She recalled once when a young woman in Carbondale visited her office because her landlord was kicking her out her residence after finding out she was a lesbian.

Simon said at the time there was legally nothing she could do to help her.

“It was a horrible thing to do,” Simon said. “It was a rotten day to be a lawyer.”

Cherkasov told a story of a lesbian couple in suburban Chicago who were harassed after coming out about seven years ago. He said one of the women attempted suicide and her partner was not able to visit her in the hospital.

The injured woman’s parents, who were against the relationship, bargained the healthy partner down to three hours of time at her partner’s bedside before she was taken away to a New York hospital and was forbidden from seeing her again. He said that is why protections are so important to same-sex families.

Simon said she hopes to see a day where sexual orientation is not considered a basis for denying rights.

“I envision a world where sexual orientation shouldn’t matter unless someone wants to ask you out,” Simon said.