Sun-Times Editorial on Marriage Equality

The news is moving so quickly on the gay-rights front, mostly for the better, that we can’t guarantee nothing will change before you come to the end of this editorial.

The best news of all, of course, in our opinion, would be the passage in Springfield of a law legalizing gay marriage in Illinois. But we’re pretty sure that won’t happen anytime soon, this being an election year when legislators will play it safe.

All the same, three representatives again introduced a gay marriage bill in the state House last week, if only to keep the conversation going. We are happy to oblige. Illinois passed a civil union bill for same-sex couples in 2010, a milestone in gay rights, but it’s important to keep pushing for the best option — gay marriage.

Now the news:

In California, a federal appeals panel two weeks ago struck down a ban on same-sex marriages, Proposition 8, saying it served only to “lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians” and to “officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

In Washington State, Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday signed a gay marriage bill. That made Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage.

In New Jersey, the House passed a gay marriage bill on Thursday, three days after the Senate passed it.

In Maryland, the House has been debating a gay marriage bill this week.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday offered a passionate plea for legalizing gay marriage, which was not actually news — that’s been his position all along — but it’s good to see he remains true to the cause.

And J.C. Penney Co., let’s not forget, hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokeswoman this month, a development we almost overlooked because, frankly, it didn’t seem like news. What could be controversial about a big chain store hiring a kind-hearted and funny talk show host to do a few commercials?

Oh, yeah, Ellen is gay. That rather inconsequential fact drew the rage this week of a conservative group called One Million Moms, which has called for a Penney’s boycott. Does One Million Moms even represent one million moms? Let’s see the count. In any event, you can be sure that many more millions of moms (and dads and kids and others) admire DeGeneres and think Penney’s decision was dandy.

The real value of the boycott is that it reminds us of how far the gay-rights movement has yet to go.

Yes, a panel in California struck down Proposition 8, but the ruling is being appealed. Yes, Washington State passed a gay marriage law, but opponents want to put the matter on the November ballot to kill it. Yes, the New Jersey legislature passed a gay marriage bill, but Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto it.

In Illinois, legal civil unions were a good start but far from adequate. They do not give gay couples the federal rights afforded married couples, such as the simple right to file their income taxes jointly to save money.

Congress must repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

And Illinois must approve gay marriage.