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Petitions submitted against same sex marriage in Illinois

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By Illinois Public Radio/KWMU/AP

Springfield, Ill. – A coalition of conservative groups opposed to same sex marriage submitted petitions at the Illinois State Board of Elections in Springfield on Monday.

They're hoping a non-binding referendum will go before voters in November over whether the state's constitution should outlaw gay marriage.

State law already prohibits it, but supporters of a ban say more protection is necessary because laws can be easily overturned.

The question needs more than 283,000 signatures to get on the ballot. Referendum supporters say they filed well above that amount, but the State Board of Elections must check the validity of those names. That process could take two weeks or more.

If the group succeeds, it would be Illinois' first statewide advisory referendum since 1978, according to the State Board of Elections.

But actually amending the constitution is a much more lengthy process. The most common approach would be for both chambers of the Legislature to vote by three-fifths majority to put an amendment on the ballot, where it would have to be approved by three-fifths of voters.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich says an amendment is not necessary since a 1996 Illinois law already prohibits same-sex marriage. He opposes the amendment, though he has said in the past that he considers marriage to be between a man and a woman.

"I think it's motivated more by dividing people rather than bringing people together, so I oppose it," Blagojevich said.

Gay Partner Benefits

Meanwhile, Gov. Blagojevich issued an administrative order Monday extending domestic partner benefits as of July 1 to all state employees he oversees. That adds 20,000 employees to the 37,000 union-covered workers who already were scheduled to get the benefits, his office said.

Spokesman Justin Dejong says about 100 Blagojevich employees are expected to enroll partners, at a cost to the state of $366,700 annually.

Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) opposes Blagojevich's action and said the issue should have been decided by lawmakers. "If it would have come before the Legislature and it passed, then at least it would have been the will of the people," Bost said.

Blagojevich called on other statewide officials and the state's boards and commissions to offer the same benefits. Dejong said around 560 people might enroll if the policy covered all 187,000 state employees and retirees.

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