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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 4, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 1
Drama in Illinois - Marriage bill on the brink as new lawmakers take office
Section One
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Drama in Illinois - Marriage bill on the brink as new lawmakers take office

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Illinois marriage equality bill teeters on the brink of failure as SGN goes to press on Thursday, January 3.

Associated Press reports that Democrats in the Illinois Senate have decided to delay a vote on the bill, after a day filled with legislative drama.

A spokesperson for Senate President John Cullerton told AP that the measure would get a committee hearing January 3, but would not be brought up for a vote because sponsors lack enough votes to pass it.

Rikeesha Phelon, the spokesperson, said she did not know how many votes there are for the plan or when it might be brought to the floor. She added that no Republicans supported it.

Equality supporters hoped to pass the bill in the legislature's lame-duck session. Illinois Democrats now have 35 seats in the Senate - five more votes than needed for passage. When the new legislature is sworn in on January 9, Democrats will have two fewer Senate seats and six fewer House seats to work with.

FAST-TRACK VOTE REJECTED
Senate supporters of the bill wanted to bring it up for a vote on January 2, but postponed the vote for a day when they failed to get enough votes to waive Senate rules and bring it up with less than 24 hours' notice.

Then, two Senate Democrats went missing, reportedly called away by family emergencies. A third had decided not to run for re-election and went off on vacation for the remainder of his term.

Early on January 3, the bill's sponsors announced they had pulled the measure, and instead would attach marriage equality legislation as an amendment to an otherwise innocuous bill regulating automobile rentals.

'It's a technical way for us to get the bill moving,' explained Rick Garcia, policy advisor for the Civil Rights Agenda, an LGBT advocacy group.

By the afternoon of January 3 it was clear that the maneuver had failed, however.

OBAMA, GOP CHAIR AGREE
Marriage equality got strong support from two public figures who are not often on the same side: President Obama and Illinois Republican chair Pat Brady.

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on January 29 that Obama wants his home state of Illinois to pass the marriage equality bill.

'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,' Inouye said.

'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.'

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, said in a statement that Obama's support makes clear the state 'should join the ever-building national consensus for marriage equality.'

'With the President's statement, Illinois lawmakers should fully understand that voting for the freedom to marry puts them on the right side of history,' Cherkasov added.

'We appreciate the President's call to action in the Illinois General Assembly as lawmakers prepare to return to Springfield in the days ahead. President Obama faced no political repercussions from his support of marriage for Gays and Lesbians, and neither should members of the Illinois House and Senate.'

Brady weighed in on January 2. 'I think it's time for people to support this,' he told the Sun-Times.

'More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way,' Brady added.

'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.'

NOM HUFFS AND PUFFS
Brady reportedly worked the phones on January 2 and 3, urging Republican lawmakers to support the marriage bill. NOM, on the other hand, threatened to primary Republicans who voted for it.

'Any Republican in Illinois who betrays the cause of marriage will be casting a career-ending vote and will be held accountable to their constituents,' said NOM president Brian Brown in a January 2 blog post.

'We will spend whatever it takes - hundreds of thousands of dollars if necessary - to remove them from office, just as we did three of the four turncoat Republican state senators in New York who were responsible for Gay 'marriage' passing there. We will not hesitate to support pro-family Democrats to replace them, as our record in New York proves.'

The anti-Gay group said it was willing to spend up to $250,000 to defeat pro-equality Republicans.

NOM also demanded that Brady resign his position as state Republican chair, or be removed by Republican delegates.

'Pat Brady is unfit to continue as chair of the state Republican Party and should immediately resign or be removed from office,' Brown said.

'We urge all donors to cease supporting the Republican Party in Illinois until Brady is removed from his position. His betrayal of Republican principles is unforgiveable and violates the trust of Illinois Republicans.'

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has promised to sign a marriage equality measure if it is passed. In 2011, Illinois passed a civil unions bill after marriage equality legislation stalled in committee.

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