CHICAGO – Lawmakers in President Barack Obama's adopted home state of Illinois approved legal civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, and sent the measure Wednesday to Governor Pat Quinn who was expected to sign it.
Civil unions give gay couples some legal rights enjoyed by married couples, such as for inheritance or hospital visits, but are seen as a step short of legal same-sex marriage.
The state senate in Illinois voted 32-24 to approve the measure which the lower House had passed on Tuesday.
Massachusetts was the first US state to authorize gay marriage. It is one of six out of 50 US states plus the District of Columbia, the US capital, that currently allow gay marriage in the United States.
Referendums on allowing gay marriage have been held in 31 US states, but all have failed to be approved.
In Latin America, Argentina was the first country to give a green light to same-sex marriage nationwide.
It followed the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Iceland.
© AFP 2013