No, we won't see the General Assembly pass provisions for civil unions this year. But they may be coming a little bit closer to our state if they pass in Illinois. According to the Washington Blade, that may happen. If Illinois adopts civil unions, it brings real relationship recognition closer to Tennessee than it has ever been. No longer just a phenomenon for New England and the Pacific coast, marriage in Iowa and civil unions in Illinois will mean that more and more states will soon border a state that is dealing constructively with same-sex relationships. While Tennessee doesn't border Illinois, both states border Missouri and Kentucky. We're pretty close on the map.
The near-term result we're likely to see is a proposal to ban civil unions and domestic partnerships in Tennessee, as we expected this year. There has even been some affirmative talk about civil unions among gubernatorial candidates. Calvin Rye talked with Democrats Ward Cammack and Kim McMillan about the possibility. Matthew Hurtt reported earlier that Republican candidate Bill Gibbons is not altogether opposed to recognizing contractual agreements between partners. I have tried to be careful not to mischaracterize Matthew's take on this point, but may have missed the nuance.
Taken together, all these factors may make 2010 a big year for debating same-sex relationships in Tennessee. I'm looking forward to the debate, but I'm dreading the bills that will be filed in the Legislature.