Given the rapid rise of public support for legalization of same-sex marriage in recent years, it seems likely that the next generation of Americans will look back on the prohibition of such unions as benighted puritanism.
Illinois, a state with a large and diverse population and home to one of the nation’s most cosmopolitan big cities, shouldn’t want to be remembered as a laggard on this score.
Fortunately, the state’s most prominent citizen is URGING action on this matter forthwith:
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.