Illinois House Adjourns without Gay Marriage Vote

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Passed State Senate in February, but not Muster on May 31, 2013

One was surprised today that the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act that passed the State Senate in February and was going to be signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, died.

Since Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013, when the bill passed the state Senate, supporters of this bill legalizing gay marriage in Illinois, had105 days to obtain the sixty House votes necessary for the vote.  But even sixty votes remained elusive despite support from President Barack Obama who urged its passing last week in Chicago and ex-President Clinton.

Lack of Support For the Bill

So, what was the problem?  Many attribute it to the state House Black Caucus. A twenty-member bloc of African Americans, the Caucus faced stubborn resistance from black ministers.  Several House members were still undecided. Several in the caucus urged Rep. Harris to push the issue into the fall veto session to bring up same-sex marriage for a House vote. (nominating petitions for the 2014 ballot have to be filed after this session).

Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill’s sponsor in the House, said he didn’t have enough support and decided not to call the bill for a vote.  “Several of my colleagues have indicated that they would not be willing to cast a vote on this legislation today…and I’ve never been sadder to accept such request. They asked me for time to go back to their districts and reach out to their minds and hearts.”

Those In Favor Gravely Disappointed

Governor Pat Quinn who helped Illinois approve civil unions in 2011 had pledged to sign the measure into law. It had the support of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Quinn repeatedly called on House lawmakers to vote on and approve the bill. He called legalizing gay marriage” a matter of equal rights and benefits for all citizens “ Gov. Quinn said the fight for same-sex marriage in Illinois is not over.”

Others who were dismayed included Lambda Legal whose lawsuit Darby v. Orr filed a year ago will move forward.  “We won’t stop (working) until same-sex couples in Illinois are treated with dignity and respect.” After thanking Senator Heather Stearns for passing this bill in the Senate, Rep. Harris, Rep. Cassidy and Rep. Mell, Lambda criticized that “our community did not at least get the vote Rep. Harris promised on the House floor.”

Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, labelled the failure by the Illinois House a “disgrace.” Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, said “The House of Representatives has neglected the rights of its constituents by failing to vote on marriage equality legislation.  For months, LGBT couples and their children have had their lives put on hold throughout an exhaustive political process that ultimately came up short. Today’s inaction is a prime example of why the U.S. Supreme Court must rule in favor of full marriage equality nationwide to ensure the security and welfare of these and countless other American families aren’t left to chance in future political battles.”

 

Tiny State of Delaware Takes Big Move

Gay Couples Can Marry July 1

On May 7, 2013, Delaware’s Senate voted,,12 to 9, to make Delaware the 11th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.   Governor Jack Markell, calling it “a great day in Delaware,” signed the measure into law. It was introduced in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

The bill won passage two weeks ago in the state House with a 23-18 vote.  Approximately a year ago, the state recognized same-sex civil unions. The new bill does not give same-sex couples any more rights or benefits under Delaware law than they currently have with civil unions, but it does give them deserved respect.

Polls Show that Majority of Americans Support Gay Marriage

“The momentum continues,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group in New York that aided the Delaware campaign.  Last week, Rhode Island adopted same-sex marriage.  Last fall there were ballot-box victories in Washington, Maryland, and Maine. In eight other states, now including Delaware, and the District of Columbia, it has been adopted by legislatures or required by court decisions.

House members are expected to consider same-sex marriage in Minnesota this week.  In Illinois, the Senate has approved a bill, but the House has not scheduled it.

Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage

Many religious leaders in Delaware are opposed to same-sex marriage.

Greg Lavelle, the minority whip and a Republican, said prior to the Delaware vote, “we won’t fully understand the impact of the legislation for years to come.  It was strange to have to defend traditional marriage that we have known for thousands of years.”

Despite the fact that all of the New England States now have same-sex marriage on the books, there are still thirty states that have adopted constitutional amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman.  Only public ballots can reverse these measures.  Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which aids in financing opposition to gay marriage, says he is not discouraged by the recent victories in New England.  “The states that have passed same-sex marriage are deep-blue liberal states.”

Opponents and supporters for gay marriage will be eager to learn of the Supreme Court decisions in June.  The court will decide in one case if the federal government should recognize same-sex marriage in states where it is legal.  The other case will decide California’s Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriage in that state after a court had declared it a legal right.