Illinois Poised to Become 10th State to Legalize Gay Marriage

State Senate Approved Measure on February 14, 2013

The Senate passed the measure 34-21 and now it goes to the House where supporters are optimistic that there will be enough votes to pass it.  Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, pleased that the Senate passed the bill,  has said that he would sign the legislation and called the bill “historic”.

The bill was sponsored by Heather Steans, a Democrat Illinois Senator.  Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate and the House. Illinois, the fifth largest state, has allowed gay unions since 2011.

The Chicago Tribune Endorses Gay Marriage

The eighth largest newspaper in the United States, The Chicago Tribune, on February 18, 2013, in an editorial, endorsed same-sex marriage and said it was “the fair thing to do.” A surprising viewpoint for a newspaper noted for its conservatism, the newspaper “urged the House to finish the job.”

Here’s what the editorial stated:

Allowing same-sex couples to wed under the law would not devalue traditional marriage.  It would affirm the bedrock values that underlie and sustain such unions.

Marriage promotes stable families, safeguards the interests of children and rewards committed relationships.

Recognizing same-sex marriages demonstrates respect for personal freedoms and keeps government out of the intimate affairs of citizens.  Many people in same-sex relationships are adopting or giving birth to children; this provides the security of a legal commitment for those children. It’s the fair thing to do.

Chicago Tribune Reflects Opinion of At least Half of U.S.

A 1996 Gallup poll found that twenty-seven percent of Americans were in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.  Now it’s at fifty percent with the strongest support coming from voters under 30.

Status of States’ Gay Marriage

Although most states ban gay marriage in their constitutions, nine states, mostly in New England, allow same-sex marriage and the District of Columbia.  Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota have constitutions which don’t ban gay unions yet don’t allow them in their respective states. However, legislation is expected to be considered later this year.  In Rhode Island, the House of Representatives passed a same-sex marriage bill, but the Senate has not taken up the measure yet. Maryland, Delaware, and Minnesota recently passed  gay marriage with the voters.

Opposition to Gay Marriage

The Illinois legislation has faced strong opposition from Catholic church leaders in the state.  Some senators warned the legislation as written may not protect religious institutions enough: and churches could be sued if they don’t perform gay-marriage ceremonies.

Those who are opposed want to keep marriage between a man and a woman as it is defined in constitutional amendments in about thirty states.  Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay unions, says “Chicago is not representative of the Midwest or Middle America.”

The U.S. Supreme Court Decision Influential

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in two cases tied to gay marriage in March 2013.  Justices may be less likely to make a landmark ruling on gay marriage than to hand down narrow decisions that will keep the fight for gay marriage settled by the states.


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?