As the Illinois Senate considers their stand on civil unions today at the Capitol, the body should seriously mull a disturbing key point SB 1716's sponsor State Rep. Greg Harris made Tuesday in favor of his legislative effort. Harris comments could be interpreted as publicly advocating that widowed senior citizens use civil unions to scam the federal Social Security system by pairing up in civil unions rather than traditional marriage to maintain higher Social Security and spousal retirement pension benefits.
During the House floor debate on civil unions, Harris told his colleagues that Illinois senior citizens as a whole would possibly benefit more than same sex couples from legalizing civil unions because under civil unions they could have the best of both worlds -- maintain their federal Social Security benefits and still gain the right to jointly occupy nursing homes as well as determine their partner's medical care.
Indeed, Rep. Harris' comments may be a worse slam to the sanctity of marriage than allowing the state recognition of same sex couples. With the passage of civil unions for same sex and opposite sex couples, Harris' comments suggested those widowed senior citizens that choose to traditionally marry a subsequent life partner of the opposite sex with the blessing of their church will foolishly give up federal and state financial resources.
For more on the House floor debate on civil unions Tuesday, see Illinois Review's live blogging review HERE.
In other words, Rep. Harris told the world the passage of civil unions would be a shrewd way to circumvent federal Social Security law and pension benefits that are diminished when a widowed senior citizen receiving spousal death benefits from a deceased husband or wife's estate remarries.
While the House floor debate focused on emotional anecdotal stories about homosexual and lesbian couples being denied access to a dying partner's bedside, about family members revealing their attractions to the same sex and the need for love, fairness and justice, Rep. Harris' strongest argument as to why civil unions should be legalized was to benefit senior citizens dependent on Social Security benefits.
As the Senate considers SB 1716 today, let's hope one member of the body clarifies Rep. Harris legislative intent. Did he mean what he said on the Illinois House floor Tuesday? Because if he did, he just opened a can of legal Social Security worms it will be impossible to reseal.