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With marriage vote any day, pressure on lawmakers builds
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2013-03-11

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LGBT advocates rally outside the Oak Park office of 8th Dist. Rep. La Shawn Ford. Photo courtesy of Equality Illinois.


With a final vote on legalizing same-sex marriage possible any day now, activists on both sides of the issue are turning up pressure on undecided lawmakers.

A House vote on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act has been predicted as early as this week, with advocates stating that a mid-week vote appeared most likely. Next week is also possible, although LGBT leaders said they want to see a vote as soon as possible.

The constituents of undecided lawmakers have been inundated with calls in recent days, and prominent supporters for the bill have been turning up pressure.

If the bill passes in the House, it is expected to become law. Gov. Pat Quinn strongly supports the measure and has vowed to sign it into law. He drove home that message in a statement released to supporters March 11.

"Marriage equality is coming to Illinois — and if we all do our part, we can pass this historic legislation as soon as this week," Quinn wrote.

Quinn noted that four years ago, passing civil unions seemed like a long shot, only to later become law.

"But that was just the first step in our journey toward treating all families equally under the law in Illinois," Quinn said. "It's clear that Illinois is ready to take the next step forward and secure marriage equality for all."

Lawmakers who appeared on the fence have received most of the attention over the past few days.

Rep. La Shawn Ford was the target of a March 11 rally outside his 8th Dist. office in Oak Park. Demonstrators called on Ford to vote in favor of equal marriage. Ford voted for civil unions and was endorsed by Equality Illinois but has not made public statements on the measure.

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, said that the overwhelming sense in past weeks is that the time for equal marriage has come.

"People - including many who have previously stayed quiet in their support for marriage - are coming out and demanding that the lawmakers do the right thing and do it now: it's time to recognize the freedom to marry," said Cherkasov, in a statement to Windy City Times.

But pressure in Ford's district has come from both sides. Oak Park residents have reported receiving robocalls from James Meeks, a former Ill. Senator long opposed to same-sex marriage. On Meeks' Facebook page, a handful of people disparaged the calls.

Rep. Greg Harris, sponsor of the bill, said LGBT advocates need counter the onslaught of anti-gay calls ringing throughout the state.

"Our opponents are pulling out all the stops," Harris said. "You can see it in the rhetoric, it's getting very heated."

Harris urged supporters not to assume their lawmakers will support the bill, and to call them and ask them to vote yes, even if they feel confident in where their lawmaker stands.

Asked if sponsors were close to securing the 60 "yes" votes needed to pass the bill, Harris simply said, "very."

Steve Brown, a spokesperson for House speaker Michael Madigan declined to offer a timeline on the vote, stating that would be up to Harris who was still working to secure the needed 60 votes.

He said that Madigan could reach out to lawmakers to ask for their vote on the bill but said, "I'm not sure they're at that point."

Related story, Representatives: How they stand on equal marriage in IL, here: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Representatives-How-they-stand-on-equal-marriage-in-Illinois-/41973.html .


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