After weeks of indecision, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a landmark bill on March 9, abolishing the death penalty in the state. Catholic officials praised the move as helping advance a culture of life in Illinois.
By signing Senate Bill 3539, Gov. Quinn makes Illinois the 16th state in the U.S. to repeal capital punishment. The new legislation will take effect in the state on July 1.
Gov. Quinn also commuted the death sentences of all 15 prisoners on the state's Death Row.
Catholics campaigning for Gov. Quinn's approval of the legislation lauded the move on Wednesday.
“The end of the use of the death penalty advances the development of a culture of life in our state,” read a March 9 statement from the Illinois Catholic Conference.
The conference – which had actively promoted the legislation – commended Gov. Quinn, and said that capital punishment was no longer needed to protect Illinois citizens.
Although the senate bill passed through the Illinois legislature in January, Gov. Quinn had taken no action on the measure until today, citing the need to get feedback from local citizens.
On March 3, the U.S. Catholic bishops urged Gov. Quinn to approve the bill, saying that signing the legislation would help build a “culture of life in our country.”
“Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif. wrote to Gov. Quinn. Bishop Blaire serves as chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Bishops' Conference.
He added that the legislation would not only end the use of the death penalty in Illinois but also provide funds for training law enforcement personnel and providing services to families of murder victims.
Bishop Blaire also noted in his letter to the governor that Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, “called for the end to the use of the death penalty as a sign of greater respect for all human life.”