PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Civil unions may be slow to catch on in Rhode Island, but gay and lesbian couples in Illinois are obtaining them in great numbers.
An Illinois gay marriage advocacy group, Equality Illinois, says its study of county records in that state shows more than 3,700 couples have gotten civil union licenses since that state began offering the option June 1.
In Rhode Island, only 39 couples had obtained licenses as of last month. State lawmakers in the Ocean State approved civil unions in July after legislation to authorize gay marriage fizzled.
The civil union laws in Illinois and Rhode Island are almost identical, except for an exemption in Rhode Island’s law allowing religious organizations to refuse to recognize the legal relationships. Gay marriage advocates say the exemption is discouraging many couples from obtaining a civil union.