Obama urging state lawmakers to legalize gay marriage in Illinois

WASHINGTON–President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state as lawmakers are poised to take up the measure as early as this week in Springfield. “While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday. “As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.

Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally,” Inouye said. The lead sponsors of the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), intend to put the measure up for a vote during the upcoming January lame-duck session. The toughest challenge for gay marriage backers will be winning passage in the Illinois House. Prospects for approval in the Illinois Senate–where Obama once served–are brighter.

The practical impact of Obama urging his home state to legalize gay marriage is to prod–and give political cover to–reluctant Democrats from conservative suburban and Downstate districts. Both chambers in Springfield are controlled by Democrats. Republicans cannot be depended on for widespread gay marriage support. Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney has reported that Steans and Harris predicted there would be some Republican backing. Illinois passed a civil union law effective June 1, 2011. When lawmakers took up civil unions, only one Senate Republican voted for the bill–current Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. While Obama rarely gets involved in statehouse battles, he has voiced support for gay marriage measures in the past year, issuing — through his re-election campaign — statements of support for gay marriage ballot questions up last November in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Those initiatives won, and a Minnesota referendum to ban gay marriage — which Obama also publicly opposed — lost.

Obama himself endorsed gay marriage in May after grappling with the issue for several years. “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts. The leading Democrats in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, are urging lawmakers to send Quinn a gay marriage bill he can sign

The Daily Kos: Marriage Equality Legislation for Illinois

Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 02:02 PM PST

Greg Harris (D) introduces marriage equality legislation for Illinois

by JGibsonFollow

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Looks like marriage equality may be coming to Illinois sooner than we think, if Greg Harris gets his way.

My previous diary mentioned that it wouldn’t come earlier than 2013:

Could Illinois be the next state to grant full marriage eqality? That could happen if the Illinois General Assembly and the State Senate get their way, but it will not happen until 2013 at their earliest. The state (which I live in) got civil unions passed in January 2011 could try to go for legalization of same-sex marriage.How will the religious right (groups such as NOM, Illinois State Baptist Association, Catholic Church hierarchy and their more conservative members, Evangelical/Fundie churches, Illinois Family Institute) react if this bill passes, or even gets to committee at all? They would claim that “Illinois’ turning into Iowa East,” “Illinois has been handed over to sodomites, perverts, and radicalized ‘homosexual agenda’ proponents,” “This state will go down the path of immorality if this doesn’t get stopped,” “It’ll lead to people marrying cats, dogs, turtles, computers, goats, cars, and other non-humans,” and other homophobic nonsense by anti-SSM noisemakers.

Chicago Phoenix:

Illinois Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in Ilinois, in the General Assembly Wednesday.“It marks the next step in our journey toward full marriage equality in our state,” Harris told Chicago Phoenix. “It’s not going to happen quickly, it’s not going to happen without a lot of hard work.”

The bill, HB5170, comes on the heels of Tuesday’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision declaring the California gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, unconstitutional. It is the latest of many bills Harris has filed as a state representative for marriage equality in Illinois.

Harris, however, said that the bill was introduced today due to deadlines for new legislation, and that he has always worked to achieve marriage equality. Harris, who is openly-gay, has devoted his career to it, he said.
“They call it a struggle for a reason,” Harris said. “We all have to keep calling our legislators, talk to our religious leaders and work hard to make this happen.”

Out lesbian lawmakers Rep. Deborah Mell (40th District) and Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy (14th District) have been added as co-sponsors of the bill.

“We are very lucky to have three very strong openly gay legislators here in Illinois,” said. “The opportunity to work so closely with representatives Harris and Mell is great — it’s a great opportunity to work together this way.”

If passed, the new law would amend the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, allowing the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage.

“This bill is the first of its kind,” said Harris. “In the past, we didn’t have civil unions, so this bill takes that into account and offers a means to transition from civil unions to marriage.”

Language in the bill is far-reaching, promising the equal rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage to couples regardless of whether they are a same-sex couple or different-sex couple.

HuffPost Chicago:

A group of pro-equality Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday filed a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Land of Lincoln.The bill, filed by the state’s trio of openly gay Reps. Greg Harris, Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy, would create the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act and provide that all state laws “applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children” and granting them “the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law,” according to the Windy City Times.

The law would also amend the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, passed into law last year, to recognize marriage and authorize the voluntary conversion of a civil union into a marriage.

Last month, the Windy City Times reported that a group of state legislators were meeting to begin talking strategy for a marriage equality bill that would be introduced as early as 2013. The bill’s introduction was perhaps expedited on the heels of the Tuesday ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that California’s gay marriage-banning Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois, said that the state’s civiil union law “has already proven to have substantial weaknesses” and applauded the newly filed marriage bill as the logical next step toward LGBT equality in the state.

“Over the past year, we confirmed what we always suspected to be true: that creating a separate institution to provide substantially the same rights did not add up to full equality under the law,” Cherkasov said in a statement. “Separate is not equal. And we at Equality Illinois will not rest until gay and lesbian couples in every corner of the state – who are equal in love – are also equal in marriage.”

While the state’s civil union law was widely seen by LGBT advocates to be an important political victory toward granting many of the same rights and responsibilities to same-sex spouses as heterosexual couples within state boundaries, marriage equality has long remained the end goal.

 

KFVS 12 (CBS-Cape Giradeau/Carbondable-Marion/Paducah/Harrisburg):

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – One year after civil unions came to Illinois, some lawmakers are beginning a push to authorize gay marriages.The legislation was filed Wednesday by three members of the Illinois House. One is Rep. Greg Harris, who was instrumental in getting civil unions approved last year.

Concerns about elections this year could mean lawmakers will be hesitant to support the legislation. It’s also likely to trigger strong opposition from conservative groups.

I hope and pray this passes.

Huffington Post: State Lawmakers Aim For Marriage Equality

A group of pro-equality Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday filed a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Land of Lincoln.

 

The bill, filed by the state’s trio of openly gay Reps. Greg Harris, Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy, would create the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act and provide that all state laws “applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children” and granting them “the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law,” according to the Windy City Times.

 

The law would also amend the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, passed into law last year, to recognize marriage and authorize the voluntary conversion of a civil union into a marriage.

 

Last month, the Windy City Times reported that a group of state legislators were meeting to begin talking strategy for a marriage equality bill that would be introduced as early as 2013. The bill’s introduction was perhaps expedited on the heels of the Tuesday ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that California’s gay marriage-banning Proposition 8 was unconstitutional.

 

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois, said that the state’s civiil union law “has already proven to have substantial weaknesses” and applauded the newly filed marriage bill as the logical next step toward LGBT equality in the state.

 

“Over the past year, we confirmed what we always suspected to be true: that creating a separate institution to provide substantially the same rights did not add up to full equality under the law,” Cherkasov said in a statement. “Separate is not equal. And we at Equality Illinois will not rest until gay and lesbian couples in every corner of the state – who are equal in love – are also equal in marriage.”

 

The Civil Rights Agenda political and policy director Lowell Jaffe said his group is “on the ground in Springfield today working aggressively with legislators to build a strong coalition around the marriage equality bill” in a Wednesday statement.

 

“I am proud to be standing in the Capitol of this great state today as this bill is introduced, and only a day after the Proposition 8 ruling in California. It is exciting to see that legislators across this country are embracing the fact that ‘gay rights’ are civil rights,” Jaffe said.

 

Harris, the lead architect of the state’s civil union law who has twice before introduced marriage equality bills in Illinois, told the Chicago Phoenix that the bill “marks the next step in our journey toward full marriage equality in our state.”

 

“It’s not going to happen quickly, it’s not going to happen without a lot of hard work,” Harris continued.

 

While the state’s civil union law was widely seen by LGBT advocates to be an important political victory toward granting many of the same rights and responsibilities to same-sex spouses as heterosexual couples within state boundaries, marriage equality has long remained the end goal.

2011 Andersonville Story of the Year: Civil Unions…and Respect

From the Andersonville Daily

Some stories land with a bang producing cataclysmic changes.   Andersonville’s top story for 2011 isn’t that type of change.  It is one that every day is quietly and fundamentally causing silently profound changes.

Civil Unions.

It started on January 31st when Governor Quinn signed a bill.  And then moved to June 1st when hundreds of Illinois couples began lining up so that on June 2, the first GLBT couples in Illinois could be given real legal recognition of their relationships.  You may not see it.  Or participate in it.  And you may feel like civil unions had no impact on your life whatsoever.  But make no mistake,  in six short months civil unions have fundamentally altered Andersonville.

Within the GLBT community, civil unions have been greeted with both joy and skepticism.  Joy at the recognition.  Skepticism because large differences remain between civil unions and marriage.  But in what has been a sure and steady stream, Andersonville couples have been lining up at the county clerk’s office to answer questions that only our straight residents had the opportunity to be asked by a methodical bureaucratic clerk:  Who is your father? Your mother?  Where were you born?  Are you both over 18?  Simple questions that produced a marriage license now offer some measure of legal guarantees for Andersonville’s gay and lesbian couples in what census data shows has become the hub of Chicago’s GLBT couples.

Long term couples were amongst the most skeptical of civil unions.  Outside of the legal guarantees, many long term couples had already built rock solid relationships of grace and dignity that required no license to stay together.  To some, therefore,  a civil union was nothing but a legal document. But as one Andersonville couple after another lined up, even the most skeptical couples who had already been together for 20 or more years could not deny that a civil union was a seminal moment for a relationship because recognition — and respect — matter.

Civil unions did not just give couples legal rights they had been denied; civil unions gave couples the respect they had long lived without.

For those not directly impacted by civil unions, you can see it quietly on a daily basis on any block in Andersonville.  Your friend or neighbor changing a Facebook status to “in a civil union.”  Attending your first civil union celebration….just like a wedding.  Peering out your window and seeing that handsome neighborly couple dressed to the nines — just like a wedding.  For GLBT citizens civil unions have changed everything, and in the face of loud contrarians — changed nothing.  Marriages haven’t failed.  Buildings haven’t crumbled.  Quite the contrary, in Andersonville civil unions have helped gay and straight neighbors build a stronger fabric by inviting straight neighbors into GLBT relationships.

In doing so, they are discovering the differences are few and risks of the unknown are non-existent.  And the more GLBT couples share their lives with family and neighbors, the faster the remaining walls will collapse.

If civil unions is the story of the year, then State Representative Greg Harris — Andersonville’s own civil union architect — must be Andersonville’s Person of the Year.  Harris navigated a treacherous and tricky path to civil union’s passage by earning his own respect in Springfield.  He is one of the few Springfield legislators that has built person-by-person relationships on both sides of the aisle by negotiating in good faith.  By showing respect, he earned respect for Andersonville’s GLBT couples.  Bravo.  In a state never short of convicted Governors, pension scammers, and con artists, Greg Harris is a public servant well deserving of our respect.

The work is far from done.  Disparities exist between civil unions and marriage.  But as more and more Illinois residents come to participate in the lives of their GLBT family and neighbors, those walls will come down.

Civil unions is the first dramatic bite of the apple otherwise known as marriage equality. Andersonville’s history has turned… making civil unions our 2011 story of the year.

Illinois Gay Marriage Push In The Works? Proponents Meet, Discuss Strategy

by Huff Post

A group of Illinois lawmakers have begun laying the groundwork for their latest push to bring marriage equality to the Land of Lincoln.

 

The Windy City Times reports that state representatives Greg Harris, Deb Mell, Kelly Cassidy, Ann Williams, Sara Feigenholtz and state senator Heather Steans have begun meeting with area LGBT and progressive groups to talk strategy for a bill that could be introduced as early as 2013.

 

Harris, who was the lead architect of the state’s civil union law granting many of the same rights and responsibilities to same-sex spouses as heterosexual couples within state boundaries, admitted to the Windy City Times, however, that taking the next step toward marriage equality will not be an “easy process.”

 

For many LGBT advocates in Illinois, while the civil union bill becoming law in January 2011 was acknowledged as an important political victory, a discrepancy remains when it comes to full marriage equality. Because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) remains on the books, many rights still elude even those same-sex couples living in states that legally recognize their relationships. And a civil union, they say, is not equivalent to marriage.

 

Join The Impact Chicago (JTIC) was among a number of groups that took to the streets in a rally for marriage equality in Chicago’s East Lakeview neighborhood in June, shortly after the state’s civil union law went into effect.

 

Lauren Fleer, a member of that group, had recently married her partner of nine years in Iowa, where marriage equality was approved in early 2009. She told HuffPost Chicago that the Iowa official who approved their union asked why they, as an Illinois couple newly permitted to enter into a civil union, had crossed the border into the Hawkeye State for a marriage license.

 

“I think it’s generally presumed that civil unions are the same thing as marriage and that’s a mistake,” Fleer said in June. “They gave us civil unions because they didn’t want us to have marriage. We have one set of laws for all the straight people and now we’re going to give you a separate and lesser set of laws for all you same-sex loving people and that’s unacceptable.”

 

State lawmakers pushing for marriage equality in Illinois said they are looking to the November elections as a crucial political moment as the entire state legislature is up for re-election.

 

Opponents of marriage equality have also begun their work to block same-sex spouses from being married in Illinois. In September, the Catholic Conference of Illinois announced the formation of a Defense of Marriage department, which it said will fight any attempts to legalize same-sex marriage in the state and work to protect the “stature of the nuclear family — which provides love, stability and confidence to children, as well as organization to society.”

 

Illinois marriage equality bills have been introduced several times before, but have thus far failed to pick up much momentum. In 2007 and 2009, Harris introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which died in committee both years. In 2009, Steans introduced a Senate version of Harris’s bill, the Equal Marriage Act, which also died in committee.

For more info: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/illinois-gay-marriage_n_1197460.html