ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- An historic day in the fight for gay rights. The state of Illinois officially legalizes civil unions.
"It treats families with respect and treats people equally under the law," Reverend Matthew Johnson said.
Rev. Matthew Johnson leads the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford and supports civil unions. For the half dozen same sex couples that worship here, he said the legislation is promising for what they ultimately hope in the future.
"We'd like full marriage equality on a federal level as well in each state," Johnson said.
But not everyone agrees with this. Pastor Stephen Klemp leads redeemer Lutheran Church in Rockford. And while his church will accept same-sex couples at their services, he adds holding civil unions or marrying those couples is not God's way.
"Marriage to us is again going back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that's the ideal. So one man one woman – union," Klemp said.
In 2009 same-sex marriage became legal in neighboring Iowa. Rev. Johnson thinks it helped pave the way for Illinois to be more open to civil unions and same sex marriage.
"The world doesn't fall apart. The land doesn't fall into the ocean. Life goes on. People can relax a little bit and they don't have be so afraid of this kind of change," Johnson said.
But Klemp's worried over time, it diminishes separation of church and state.
"That's probably the biggest fear is that the state is going to come and tell the churches they have to do this. And we'll fight that every step of the way," Klemp said.
The measure gives gay and lesbian couples official recognition from the state and many of the rights that accompany traditional marriage. That includes the power to decide medical treatment for an ailing partner and the right to inherit a partner's property.
The law will take effect on June 1.