Freedom to Marry Bill Swiftly Introduced on First Day of New Illinois General Assembly
The legislative sponsors of the Illinois marriage equality bill filed Senate and House bills on Jan. 9 that would grant all Illinois couples the freedom to marry. On the first day of the new legislative session, sponsors Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said they will work to pass the legislation, known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, shortly after members of the 98th General Assembly are sworn in.
“Last week, the Senate Executive Committee made history by approving same-sex marriage and gave our efforts incredible momentum,” Senator Steans said. “With the full support of Senate President John Cullerton, I am confident legislators will grant all Illinois couples the freedom to marry this year.”
“We are one step closer to equality in the Land of Lincoln,” added Representative Harris. “The bills we filed today will treat all couples equally under the law. We are going full steam ahead on this.”
Illinois Unites for Marriage – a coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois – is continuing its statewide campaign in support of the bill, marshaling support and urging allies to step up contacts with their legislators.
The organizations leading Illinois Unites applauded the prompt introduction of the bills by Harris and Steans on the first day of the new session and on the heels of the successful Senate committee vote last week.
The coalition supporting the right of all loving, committed couples to marry – already strong with business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American and Hispanic leaders, Republicans and Democrats – continues to grow. Together, the coalition represents all walks of life and all areas of Illinois.
"No House or Senate member can deny the breadth of support and widespread belief that treating all Illinois couples fairly and equally is the right and responsible thing to do in Illinois. Same-sex couples and their children cannot wait any longer," the Illinois Unites coalition stated.
Coalition members also noted that marriage equality legislation has been endorsed by nearly every major newspaper in Illinois, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Peoria Journal Star, the Springfield Journal-Register and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Steans and Harris noted that support for marriage equality is building across Illinois, as it is in the country. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans believe gays and lesbians should have the freedom to marry, and polling shows a majority of Illinoisans likewise support it.
The recent supportive editorial from the Springfield Journal-Register stated, “gay marriage is the civil rights issue of the generation.” The Peoria Journal-Star wrote earlier this week in its supportive editorial that, “Marriage is a good thing. It comes with obligations to partner and family that are good for society and provide stability…Marriage equality is coming.”
The bill also shares the support of Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady, who said last week that, “giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value –that the law should treat all citizens equally.”
Both bills include language identical to the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which the Senate Executive Committee passed last week. Information about the bills is available at www.illinoisunites.org, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard.
With Committee Success, Marriage Bill Moving to Next General Assembly
SPRINGFIELD, IL – The movement for marriage equality achieved a milestone victory, Jan. 3, with the adoption of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act by the Senate Executive Committee.
This was the first step of many, explained Equality Illinois, the state's oldest and largest LGBT advocacy organization via press release:
Today's victory builds on all the work we have done, adds to the momentum that the supporters have created, and puts us in great position to advance the freedom to marry in the coming months.
With just a handful of days remaining in the current lame duck session, time to move the bill through both chambers is not on our side. So we will act in the new General Assembly that convenes next week, on Wednesday, January 9.
"We have come so far. Just to be able to witness the historic public debate over the desire of all loving, committed couples to be able to marry in Illinois is a major accomplishment. And with the landmark action by the Senate Executive Committee in favor of the bill, for the first time ever an Illinois legislative body voted to extend the freedom to marry. Never before has the issue gone this far in the Illinois legislature," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.
"Our opponents should not believe they have turned the tide against the growing national and Illinois consensus favoring marriage equality. The clock simply ran out, and our legislative supporters ran out of time," he said.
Equality Illinois and its allies are prepared to continue the battle in the new legislature with these tremendous positives in our favor:
-The new Illinois House and Senate are considered to be more supportive of LGBT issues.
-The fight for marriage equality brought together religious leaders, business, labor unions, African-American and Hispanic communities, Democrats and Republicans, representing themselves and millions of Illinoisans.
-A coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and ACLU of Illinois and including scores more organizations came together under Illinois Unites for Marriage to campaign for the bill.
-The support of President Obama, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady and many more leaders and the endorsements by major newspapers including the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald are behind the effort and are not going away.
-This battle has swelled our ranks, and our forces will be stronger than ever. We have shared thousands of messages with senators and representatives, and our supporters called and emailed lawmakers in phenomenal numbers.
"We are confident that the House and Senate sponsors, Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans, will successfully lead the bill to passage in the next General Assembly, and we thank them and all the other legislative co-sponsors and supporters for their efforts," Cherkasov said.
This battle begins again on Wednesday, January 9, and, Equality Illinois will be in the forefront.
Marriage Equality Momentum Brings Together New Illinois Coalition
CHICAGO, IL – In the wake of the announcement by key legislators that they will seek passage of an Illinois marriage equality bill in January 2013, a broad range of organizations have joined to form a new coalition, called Illinois Unites for Marriage, organizers announced, Dec. 10. The coalition will be wholly focused on securing legislation giving same-sex couples the freedom to marry in early 2013.
Illinois Unites brings together a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across Illinois, including business groups, labor, faith organizations, Republicans, Democrats and grassroots supporters. The coalition is being organized by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.
"We are uniting to urge members of the Illinois General Assembly to let all Illinoisans express their love and life-long commitment through civil marriage," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state's oldest and largest LGBT advocacy organization.
“The momentum is undeniable – allowing same-sex couples to marry is the right thing for Illinois,” said Jim Bennett, Regional Director of Lambda Legal. “It’s best for our state that our government treat all families with equity and respect. Nine other states now have full marriage equality. It’s time for Illinois to act.”
The legislation, currently called HB 5170, would give gay and lesbian couples in Illinois the freedom to marry and thereby enter a life-long commitment of responsibility and respect. Recent polling indicates that a majority in Illinois supports giving same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Meanwhile, national polls as well as the November elections confirm that the American people have turned a corner on the issue.
“Same-sex couples will strengthen the institution of marriage,” said John Knight, ACLU’s LGBT Project Director. “They want to marry because of their love and commitment and because marriage provides them and their families with the security, support and legal protections that civil unions can never provide.”
The three founding organizations of Illinois Unites for Marriage believe that the government should have a statewide policy treating all Illinoisans with dignity and respect. The coalition is working closely with the bill’s lead sponsors, Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), who announced last week they would seek a January vote on the measure.
The Illinois marriage bill respects religious freedom. Every church and religious group will make its own decisions about whether to allow same-sex couples to marry in their faith. Faiths that do not want to embrace same-sex marriage will not have to.
The three founding organizations of Illinois Unites for Marriage believe that all Illinoisans deserve a statewide policy of fairness, dignity and equal treatment. Nine states plus the District of Columbia have already given same-sex couples the freedom to marry: Iowa, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maryland.
Illinois Unites for Marriage has launched a website, www.illinoisunites.org, with information about the bill and about how citizens can make their voices heard and organizations can express their support.
Organizations supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples include:
Affinity Community Services
African American Lesbian Professionals Having a Say
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
All Saints Social Justice Circle
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31
Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA)
Anti Defamation League
Chicago Bar Association
Chicago Jobs with Justice
Freedom to Marry
Howard Brown Health Center
Human Rights Campaign
Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP)
Illinois Department of Human Rights
Illinois State Bar Association
PFLAG Northern Illinois Council (14 Chapters)
Prairie Pride Coalition
Quad Citians Affirming Diversity
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare IL and IN
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73
United Electrical Workers, Western Region
The Civil Rights Agenda