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Last chance for Illinois marriage bill?

Greg Harris, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state Rep. Greg Harris drafted the same-sex marriage bill — now in jeopardy — in the House. (Photo by Leah Jones via Wikimedia)

After a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples failed to come up for debate in the Illinois Legislature on Thursday, advocates are pinning their hopes on Friday, the final day of the legislative session.

“A vote has been promised, and now it is time to deliver on that promise,” said Jim Bennett, chair of the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition, at a Thursday afternoon news conference, according to LGBT web publication, Chicago Phoenix. “We need marriage equality and we need it now.”

Illinois has been expected to join another 12 states and the District of Columbia in passing a same-sex marriage bill this year. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has signaled his eagerness to sign the bill into law, as well. However, the bill is now in jeopardy if the legislative session comes to a close without a vote.

In light of the urgency, three groups pushing for marriage equality in the state have called on supporters to push lawmakers on Friday, and plan a rally in the state capital of Springfield in order to press for a vote.

“We need you to join us for an urgent rally at the State House in Springfield tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.,” read a Thursday release from Lambda Legal, ACLU of Illinois and Equality Illinois. “Together, we’ll show the Speaker — and all our representatives — that we want a vote taken on the marriage equality bill before the House adjourns at the end of the day tomorrow.”

The three groups are calling on advocates to gather at the appointed time in the state capitol rotunda, and are offering free shuttles from Chicago to the state capitol for those who are unable to get themselves there, according to the release, as published by Windy City Times.

“Everything comes down to what happens before the end of the day tomorrow,” the release continues. “If a vote isn’t scheduled, we don’t win, and thousands of loving couples will continue being denied the protection and security they need and deserve.”

Last week, President Obama threw his support behind the bill in his home state, which supporters believed would help bolster support in the legislature.

John Becker, managing editor at the LGBT blog Bilerico Project, told Chicago Phoenix he called house speaker Michael Madigan’s office and received verbal confirmation of a Friday vote from a staffer.

“I decided to try to call Madigan’s office and I spoke to a male representative,” said Becker, who is also an LGBT rights activist and writer. “He said the vote will definitely happen [on Friday].”


Chair of Ill. GOP urges lawmakers to support same-sex marriage bill

Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, gay news, Washington Blade

Illinois State Capitol (Photo by Meagan Davis via wikimedia commons)

The chair of the Illinois Republican Party on Wednesday urged state lawmakers to support a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.

“More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way,” Pat Brady told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value — that the law should treat all citizens equally.”

Gay former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman, who lobbied lawmakers in Maryland and New York to support same-sex marriage measures in their respective states, also urged Illinois lawmakers to vote for the bill.

“Republicans should support the freedom to marry in Illinois, consistent with our core conservative belief in freedom and liberty for all,” Mehlman said in a statement that Illinois Unites for Marriage, a coalition of groups that supports the same-sex marriage law, released. “Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment and foster strong family values.”

Brady, who stressed he was expressing his own views and not those of the state GOP, announced his support for the same-sex marriage bill on the same day the 15-member Illinois Senate Executive Committee was expected to consider the measure. (The Windy City Times reported late on Wednesday members are expected to vote on the bill state Sen. Heather Steans introduced on Thursday.)

Lawmakers have until the end of the current legislative session on Jan. 8 to vote on the same-sex marriage bill. Governor Pat Quinn has said he will sign the measure, while a White House spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday that President Obama also supports the measure.

Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George urged parishioners to oppose efforts to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians in a letter that parishes distributed on Sunday.

Equality Illinois CEO optimistic bill will pass

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nine states and D.C., while Illinois is among the handful of other states that allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Gay marriage referenda passed in Maryland, Maine and Washington in November, while Minnesota voters on Election Day struck down a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect on New Year’s Day, while gays and lesbians began to tie the knot in Maine and Washington on Saturday and Dec. 9 respectively.

Lawmakers in Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island are expected to consider measures later this year that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov told the Washington Blade during an interview from Springfield, the state capital, earlier on Wednesday he remains optimistic lawmakers will support the same-sex marriage bill. He said he feels recent legislative and electoral advances on the issue in other states will spur more Illinois lawmakers to support it.

“In the past they kept us, the advocates, say to them that this is the right thing to do politically and morally,” Cherkasov said. “Now for the first time they’ve had a chance to see actually that the voters said this is the right thing to do politically and morally. So they didn’t need to trust just the activists and the advocates anymore. They can look at a clear record of successes from four states of voters being supportive of marriage equality.”