"It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love. Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the State cannot change natural marriage. Civil laws that establish “same-sex marriage” create a legal fiction. The State has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible."
-- Cardinal Francis George of Chicago
Yesterday, February 20, 2013, I braved 9 degree F weather and bundled up at 6:00 a.m. in the morning to head down to Springfield, Illinois, in order to visit my state government. I carpooled down there with other Chicago area residents to spend a day at the capitol. Why? The Illinois state government seems to have a peculiar set of priorities in mind this month. So what is the most pressing concern for state legislators -- is it the skyrocketing gas prices in Illinois, the lingering unemployment, the flow of companies out of our state, the continuing pension crisis, or Illinois' inability to pay its own bills? Nope. Apparently the biggest issue out there this month is ensuring two people of the same gender can call their relationship a "marriage", as legislation to "fast track" same sex marriage is moving forward in Springfield now.
The Illinois Senate has already passed the bill, so the Illinois Family Institute invited citizens from across Illinois who believe in traditional marriage to visit Springfield for Defend Marriage Lobby Day on February 20th.
I was the lone Catholic in the car that day, and we noticed a steady flow of other vehicles heading to Springfield on the highway, many with banners showing they were there for Defend Marriage Lobby Day. The official start of the event was 10:30 a.m., and we were fortunate to arrive about an hour earlier when there was still room to park around the state capitol complex and enter the capitol building without having to wait in line. A mere three trips through the metal detector and a brief search, and I was on my way inside the building.
The IFI had booths set up on each side of the hallway with instructions (one side was for citizens who already knew who their state legislator was, the other side was for those who didn't), and they passed out information packets about how to effectively lobby your legislator, and a signed letter to give to them. We were also invited to take a yellow "Marriage: One Man, One Woman" button, with the IFI explicitly stating that the buttons were limited to one per person so there would be enough to go around.
It was a long walk to my legislator's office, and I finally located her office around 10 a.m. My lobbying effort actually went very smooth at that point. I simply walked through the door, introduced myself and stated I was a constituent, and asked to speak to her. The secretary told me that wouldn't be a problem and that she was currently speaking with someone else, but they would put me down on the list next and that I could see her in about 10 minutes. I had a seat on the sofa and waited.
My State Rep. is Kelly Burke (D-36) of Evergreen Park, and she remembered me from brief face to face encounters we had before. She warmly welcomed me into her office with a cheery "Hi, Bill!" She then told me it wasn't necessary to come all the way to Springfield to see her, as she is available in her Oak Lawn office every week, and asked what I had on my mind.
What followed was a back and forth exchange for about 10 minutes about SB10, the bill to legalize "gay marriage" in Illinois. I expressed numerous concerns about the legislation, and told her I thoroughly disagreed with the arguments that it was a "civil rights" bill, or that "young people" favor gay marriage and that it's "inevitable", noting that I am under 35 and certainly do not support the legislation or see it as "civil rights". I also noted that I was highly offended by the tactics of pro-gay marriage groups in calling proponents of traditional marriage "homophobic" and "bigoted", since I am friends with many openly gay people and have no reservations about visiting, working, or interacting with them, and I do not "hate" them or attack them for their gay relationships.
My state representative claimed to be undecided on the legislation, and says she has heard arguments for and against the bill, and is weighing all options. She agreed I made some valid points, and the rhetoric and bully tactics of others was unwarranted and she does not question my sincerity. She also agreed the legislation was being considered perhaps too hastily, and noted that there's a chance the bill might not get called for a floor vote at all, given that so many people are reacting strongly to it.
When I noted that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts had lead to Catholic Churches being sued for "discrimination" if they refuse to "marry" a gay couple, my state rep. was quick to point out that the Illinois legislation was different from the Massachusetts version and the Illinois bill exempts churches opposed to gay marriage from performing same sex marriages. Yes, I acknowledged, but then pointed out that it does not exempt religious schools, organizations or businesses owned by persons who are religiously opposed to same sex marriage to opt out of services involved with same sex marriages. As an example, I noted St. Xavier University, a Catholic institution, would be forced to recognize a gay "marriage" and accommodate them as they would a traditional marriage. My State Rep. acknowledged this could be a problem, but said such universities and hospitals had opened themselves up to that because they serve non-Catholics who do not share their religious beliefs.
Another topic we discussed was the fact that if "marriage" is defined as "love between consenting adults", then legally the government would have to open up marriage to incestuous and polygamous couples. My state rep. did agree this was problematic, but cited examples where such unions wouldn't be recognized, such as barring a son from marrying his mother because of concerns about genetic problems with their offspring. What if the son wants to marry his mother and she's over the age of 50 and went through menopause? I offered. I stated my position that same-sex marriage is actually impossible because they are biologically incompatible and cannot consummate a marriage. "Neither can couples over 70", my state rep. suggested. I concluded our discussion saying they probably couldn't reproduce, but two people over 70 consummating a marriage is certainly possible.
The one issue I noticed my state representative kept talking around was the idea of why the government felt the need to call it "marriage" at all. Less than two years ago, Illinois legalized "civil unions" which granted the exact same benefits to gay couples under law that heterosexual marriages get, the only difference being it didn't use the word "marriage" to describe the same-sex relationship. Furthermore, politicians at the time said it was a "compromise" measure that would satisfy everyone, and that if they got their way, they wouldn't move to introduce gay marriage next. My State Rep. acknowledged my points and offered no answer to these questions.
Around 10:30 p.m., the Defend Marriage Rally took place on the grounds of the state capitol by the Abraham Lincoln statue. It was quite overwhelming to see the turnout of Illinois citizens who converged on the capitol complex, as at least 3000-4000 Illinois citizens for traditional marriage were in the building or on the capitol grounds at that moment (people had lined up for about a block to get into the capitol building; and the capitol hill police had to close the door when it had reached maximum capacity. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the large turnout from African-American and Hispanic churches. About a quarter of those wearing the yellow buttons were black Illinoisans, so their presence was noticeable and they were very energetic and passionate during both the rally and in the capitol building to visit their legislators. Hispanic congregations were quieter but "very sweet and friendly", as one blogger noted.
Catholics parishes represented a large percentage of the concerned citizens, and we spoke for a while with five of the brothers from St. John Cantius Church. About an hour later, I spotted my pastor, Fr. Thomas J. Loya, on the second floor of the rotunda and I met up with him and some other parishioners for lunch, as well as taking a break to give both a TV interview in the camera and speak on the phone live for a radio interview. Other pro-life and pro-family conservatives I encountered during the day included David Smith, the President of IFI, lobbyist Ralph Rivera, central Illinois conservative activist Liz Eilers, and Eric Wallace, a black conservative activist and current Republican candidate for Illinois' 2nd Congressional District.
Overall, the most interesting part of the day was the whole tone of the event. While gay marriage proponents routinely call anyone who disagrees with them "hateful", at no point did any traditional marriage proponents use profanity or expressed a hatred of those on the opposite side of this issue. No one threatened anyone or became obnoxious or angry. Traditional marriage proponents simply prayed and sang patriotic songs. Only two or three pro-gay marriage counter protestors were there that day, mostly to mock our crowd. About 1:00 p.m., the Defend Marriage Day was seemingly drowned out by a much smaller but much, much louder crowd of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) activists, clad in purple ski caps. There were several hundred of them in the capitol rotunda for their own indoor rally, which consisting of screaming slogans like "WHAT DO WE WANT?! HEALTH CARE!!! WHEN DO WE WANT IT?! RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!" over and over again. My pastor remarked that they were so loudly screaming that the only words you could make out is "WANT" and "RIGHT NOW", which is why they get their way.
I found out later that many people in Illinois ended up with a very different conclusion from Defend Marriage Day than how my day went. The Chicago media reported that several "hundred" Illinoisans showed up at the capitol complex to protest "marriage equality" (nope, there's no liberal bias in the media, I'm sure they'll be referring at the next big Obamacare event as a "small, anti-religious freedom gathering"). Furthermore, it seems the vast majority of traditional marriage proponents who attempted to meet with their state legislator that day came up empty handed -- they were told their legislators were "in committee meetings" and there was no knowing when they would be available. I have to give my State Representative credit for being very kind and taking time out that day to meet and listen to me.
In any case, I was glad I went that day and did my part, since politicians are supposed to work for us (we the people), and not the other way around. Rather than oppose SB10 because the Bible tells me so, I am motivated by a quote from Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”