One of the more memorable, and significant, events of 2012 was the increasingly vocal and legislative support for same-sex marriage, and especially as an outcome of the presidential election, where Maine, Maryland and Washington State joined others in giving legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples.
Seemingly impossible less than two decades ago, the issue, and the story have staying power, or to use an old newspaper term, “legs.”
Now, comes Illinois, the fifth-largest state, with an increasingly vocal gay rights community, and strong support from public officials, such as Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel who put it at the top of his “to-do” list, last month, as we reported.
Just before the Christmas holiday, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) noted that he and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) were sponsoring the bill and planned to put it before the state legislature, if in the lame-duck session.
With strong vocal support from President Obama who told the Chicago Sun-Times via a spokesman that, “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.”
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church, in the form of Cardinal Francis George, sent a letter to the hierarchy, on Tuesday, and the parishes, calling same-sex marriage “legal fiction” and that it was “impossible for two men, or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love.”
The Catholic Church has been in public opposition towards marriage equality since it first appeared on state agendas; in contrast to polls that show widespread support for the change among the people in the pews that George shepherds to.
Nearly a year ago, as the organizers of Chicago’s annual Gay Pride Parade, planned a changed route to accommodate increasing attendance, George compared the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan, a statement that he was forced to retract, after vigorous and vocal denunciation from many in both the public and private eye.
While George’s comments are not unexpected, notable support has come from African-American leaders, among them, Cook County Board of Commissioners, President, Toni Preckwinkle who said, “Today, in Illinois, the rights of gay and lesbian couples to be treated as equal citizens are being violated. Treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter who the target is.”
Earlier this year, Harris had withdrawn the bill citing Illinois’ moribund economy, and the largest pension defecit in the country; but now with a warmer political climate, and some economic optimism, he has decided to go full-steam ahead.
A hearing is scheduled for tonight in Springfield, with a full-vote following in the Senate, and is expected in the House by Thursday.
The New Yorker, in an on-line blog noted the following:
“Illinois, being the President’s home state and containing four per cent of the total U.S. population, would be a big win for marriage-equality advocates. If it does come early in January, as is now expected, it would be much sooner than anticipated. Marriage efforts in Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are also getting attention. Iowa, the other Midwestern state that allows gay marriage, does so as the result of a state-supreme-court decision in 2009, not a ballot initiative or legislative action. Its passing would send one more signal to the Supreme Court as it turns its attention to the issue of same-sex marriage.”
If Illinois does pass same-sex marriage, then it will be a victory not only for the bill’s supporters, but will embolden further efforts across the nation.
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