by Mike Andrew
SGN Staff Writer
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed his state's marriage equality bill into law on November 20, while thousands of supporters cheered and the Roman Catholic bishop of Springfield held a formal exorcism to drive Gay demons out of the state.
Quinn signed the law on a desk once used by Abraham Lincoln, and in his speech at the signing ceremony, held at the University of Illinois' Chicago campus, he referenced Lincoln's signature speech.
'In the very beginning of the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois said that our nation was conceived in liberty. And he said it's dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and that's really what we're celebrating today,' Quinn said. 'It's a triumph of democracy.'
The signing capped a protracted campaign for votes in the state House of Representatives after the Illinois Senate passed the measure on Valentine's Day. House sponsors failed to come up with the votes to pass the bill during the regular session, and had to delay the start of the special session for 24 hours to give themselves more time to lobby colleagues. In the end, the measure passed the House with only one vote to spare.
VOLUNTEERS WERE KEY
Supporters credited the dozens of volunteers who phonebanked undecided legislators over the summer, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, who personally lobbied wavering members to vote for the bill.
Madigan is also the chair of the state Democratic Party, meaning he can funnel the party's campaign money to Democratic members facing electoral challenges because of their decision to vote in favor of marriage equality.
Madigan himself gave much of the credit to the bill's sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris, both of whom are Democrats from Chicago.
'We're here to celebrate family, commitment, equality, love, courage, and community,' Harris said, before taking a dig at the conservative opposition. 'Marriage is a family value.'
Harris also noted that the bill would not have passed without the votes of three Republicans who broke ranks with the rest of their party - Reps. Ed Sullivan, Ron Sandack, and Tom Cross.
'It takes both parties to make something happen, and when we work together, look what we can do,' said Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. 'I am available to be a flower girl, and I'll even waive the fee.'
The law will take effect on June 1, 2014. Although that date is a Sunday, officials with Cook County Clerk David Orr's office said they will be open to issue marriage licenses, and they expect a huge demand. They added they may provide special waivers so couples need not wait until the day after receiving a license before they can be married.
Civil unions can now be converted to marriages within a year of the law taking effect. About 6,500 applications for civil unions have been filed since 2011, with roughly 4,000 originating in Cook County.
'UNCLEAN' SPIRITS EXORCISED
Predictably, Roman Catholic authorities and other religious conservatives in Illinois reacted with horror.
While Lesbian and Gay couples and their friends gathered to celebrate equality in Chicago, Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, the state capital, led a ceremony titled 'Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage' at Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
'I exorcise you, every unclean spirit, every power of darkness, every incursion of the infernal enemy, every diabolical legion, cohort, and faction, in the name and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ!' Paprocki said during the hour-long rite, conducted mostly in Latin.
'It is not the church that must change to confirm its teachings to the views of the world, but it is each individual who is called to be configured to Christ,' Paprocki added.
Afterwards, the bishop told Chicago Tribune reporters that his actions 'are not meant to demonize anyone, but are intended to call attention to the diabolical influences of the devil that have penetrated our culture, both in the state and in the church.'
Paprocki also charged that 'politicians responsible for enacting civil same-sex marriage legislation are morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin.'
Paprocki's boss, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, ordered all priests in Illinois to read their congregations a letter condemning the marriage law.
'There will be consequences for the Church and society that will become clearer as the law is used to sue for discrimination,' the archbishop's letter said.
'The law has made some Gays and Lesbians happy, and that is not a bad thing in itself. The law, however, is bad law because it will contribute over the long run to the further dissolution of marriage and family life, which are the bedrock of any society.'
Cardinal George is perhaps best known for demanding that Chicago's Pride Parade, which he compared to a Ku Klux Klan rally, steer clear of Catholic churches.
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