by Karen Hawkins
United by their belief in marriage rights for same-sex couples, a diverse group of clergy, officials and activists observed Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund's Freedom to Marry Day with a press conference Monday afternoon.
"Equality in civil marriage is a right whose time has come," said Matthew Roberts, director of Lambda's Midwest office, as he introduced the day's lineup.
Organizers said Freedom to Marry Day has been held on Feb. 12 for the last four years to tie Lincoln's Birthday&emdash;celebrated as a day of equality &emdash;and Valentine's Day&emdash;celebrated as a time of love&emdash;together. Aside from Chicago, events were held in Minneapolis, San Jose, Philadelphia and Seattle.
With anecdotes about their own experiences in dealing with same-sex relationships or same-sex couples, presenters vowed to work for marriage rights and signed Lambda's Marriage Resolution.
The resolution reads: "Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual personal choice, Resolved the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage."
The Rev. Gregory Dell, pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church, drew the strongest reaction of laughter and applause when he began his speech by declaring, "It is time&emdash;it is time&emdash;that the awarding of special rights to people because of their sexual orientation be challenged."
In discussing his conviction to same-sex unions, he said, "God simply won't let this rest until justice arrives."
Dell joined a group of clergy from several different faiths, and other religious speakers were: Rabbi Suzanne Griffel, Congregation Or Chadash; Bishop Wilkowski, Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest; and Apostle Kevin Tindell, Praise Center Chicago.
In stating the city's commitment to gay rights, the mayor's GLBT liaison, Bill Greaves, said, "Chicago is wed to the ideal of a bias-free city," and added, "everyone has a right to define his or her own family."
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-12th District, and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, D-10th District, were the other officials at the gathering, and both briefly discussed legislative efforts for GLBT rights.
"The freedoms we hold so dear are hollow until we extend them to all Americans," Feigenholtz said, noting that as an adopted person, "There are a lot of gay and lesbian couples who I wish would adopt me."
She also noted that House Bill 101, this session's version of House Bill 474, has made it into the Human Services Committee. The bill, sponsored by openly gay State Rep. Larry McKeon, D-34th District, would add sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Two sets of committed couples also attended: Evette Cardona and Mona Noriega; and Jim Darby ( also of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Veterans of America ) and Patrick Bova.
Darby and Bova, who have been together for nearly 38 years, talked about the ways that the world has changed since they began their relationship.
"When we were younger, the notion of marrying and having children was not on our minds," Bova said.
The day's other speakers were: Mark Wojcik, assistant professor of Law, The John Marshall Law School; and Doug Ferguson, Young Lawyers Section/Lesbian & Gay Rights Committee of the Chicago Bar Association.