Will Illinois Be Next To Legalize Gay Marriage?

Illinois State’s Senate Defeated Bid For Gay Marriage

The Illinois Marriage Equality Bill was narrowly defeated, 28 to 24 votes, from getting the first legislative hearing on January 2, 2013.  The vote was on waiving a six-day waiting period set out in Senate rules to have the measure heard in committee. Senate Republicans blocked an effort to allow the measure to be considered by a committee, but some supporters were absent.

Minor Procedural Setback

The bill’s chief Senator sponsor, Democrat Heather Steans, points out that an alternative parliamentary way around the six-day waiting period is to have the legislation be heard in the Senate Executive Committee.  It is possible that the hearing could happen within the next week, during the “lame-duck” session of the state legislature, which ends on January 8. Will the gay marriage bill be pushed through the full Senate?

Supporters Not Worried, But Not “Resting on Laurels,” Either

The bill, pending in Springfield, Illinois, has prominent Democrats, including Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as well as President Obama supporting it. Last week, at least 260 Illinois Jewish and Protestant leaders published a letter supporting same-sex marriage although the bill does allow religious groups to opt out of performing gay marriages if they so wish.  Twelve African-American leaders on January 2nd, released an open letter in support of the measure.

Catholic and Muslim Opposition in Fifth’s Largest State

However, not all religious figures were supportive. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago calls same-sex marriage “ a violation of natural law” and urges the measure’s defeat.  Like other bishops, he describes gay marriage as a “legal fiction” and says that gays should remain celibate and not aim to “destroy natural law by attempting to legislate such artificial constructs.” Although the legislation would not require religious organizations to recognize or consecrate gay marriage, some 1,700 state religious leaders derided that claim in letters addressed to Illinois lawmakers.

Key Republicans Back Marriage Equality Bill

Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, and Ken Mehlman, a gay former Republican National Committee Chairman from 2005 to 2007, on January 2nd, urged the Illinois General Assembly to pass the Religious Freedom and MarriageFairness Act. Says Mehlman, campaign manager for President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, “allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster strong family values.” See “Illinois Republican leadership backs marriage equality bill,” LGBTQ Nation, 1/2/2013.

Gay TV Star Adds Heft to Campaign

To give more weight to this gay rights bill, Emmy-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, along with his fiance Justin Mikita, and Governor Sheila Simon, announced his support on January 2.

Ferguson, who is half of the gay couple portrayed in the popular comedy Modern Family, commented “I’m looking forward to raising a family with Justin and having our kids grow up in an equal America.”

What the Marriage Equality Marriage Bill Means For Illinois

Since June 2011, Illinois has one of the most liberal civil unions law in effect.  Last year, a survey of Illinois voters by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that 47 % would allow gay marriage, 42% were opposed, and 11 percent not sure.

If the bill passes, Illinois, with a population of 30 million people, would become the tenth state to allow same-sex marriage.  The new legislature, sworn in, on January 9th, has a supermajority of Democratic members who would most likely favor the legislation.

With the recent passage of gay marriage in Washington, Maryland and Maine, and marriage efforts gaining ground in Rhode Island, Minnesota, Delaware and Hawaii, perhaps the Supreme Court will be apt to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act?