Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC sitcom, Modern Family, lends star power to Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon's
press conference as part of “Bow Tie Lobby Day,” in support of marriage equality.
The battle for marriage equality is heating up fast and furious in the Land of Lincoln. The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was introduced Wednesday into the Illinois state Senate Executive committee. Advocate expectations where it would be voted on Wednesday and referred to the full Senate for a floor vote the following day. As of Wednesday evening, the bill stalled in committee on a procedural technicality, and is expected to be picked up Thursday, Windy City Times reports.

Testimony is being heard in the chambers, and lobbying efforts are ongoing. Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov is optimistic the bill will pass. He told the Washington Blade that legislators "didn’t need to trust just the activists and the advocates anymore. They can look at a clear record of successes from four states of voters being supportive of marriage equality."

At a press conference Wednesday, Chicago Tribune reports Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon called on Illinois residents and their extended families to reach out to their legislators in support.

The legislative campaign kicked off with a great piece of big news. White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times President Obama was urging Illinois assembly to pass the bill. Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) told DNAinfo Chicago the president's announcement energized supporters. "I was just thrilled that the president of the United States took time to talk about an issue that is so important to so many families in Illinois," Harris said.

Leaders of the African American community, including Chicago Urban League, Chicago's Black Business Network, the West Point Missionary Baptist Church, and others, added their support in a joint letter (pdf) saying:

We remember that not long ago some states defined marriage as limited to people  of the same race.  We were told marriage between people of different races was  “unnatural” and that society would be eroded if marriage changed.  The truth is, marriage has evolved throughout history to reflect the needs and progress of society.

Illinois GOP Chair: Supporting equality is "true conservative position"

GOP chair man Pat Brady
Wednesday, news of a more surprising supporter broke. The bill is getting a bipartisan push from across the aisle in Republican circles. The state Republican Party chairman is talking to members, urging a yes vote:
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles is calling GOP lawmakers asking them to support a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, he said today.

Brady said he was making the calls as a citizen, outside of his official role with the Illinois Republican Party.

"I think it's time for people to support this," Brady said.

Regardless if he's speaking "as a citizen" or as a power-broker of the Republican Party, it's likely to hold sway in the state. When asked by the right-leaning conservative blog Illinois Review Brady told them he believes it is an "equality issue," and that the "true conservative position is in favor" of allowing gay marriage.

Windy City Times has compiled a list of state senators positions on the bill, here. Specific positions on marriage are few, but the overall picture shows a largely LGBT-friendly chamber that supported civil unions and earned the endorsement of Equality Illinois.

(More news after the orange croissant.)

Elderly virgins warn against the consequences of majority rule

Cardinal Francis George of Illinois.
Cardinal Francis George
The Catholic Archdiocese of Illinois is highly engaged in a campaign of opposition, sending a letter to parishioners urging them to oppose the legislation or society will crumble. Cardinal Francis George wrote:
Those who continue to distinguish between genuine marital union and same sex arrangements will be regarded in law as discriminatory, the equivalent of bigots. This proposed legislation will have long term consequences because laws teach; they tell us what is socially acceptable and what is not, and most people conform to the dictates of their respective society, at least in the short run.

What happens next? If we ignore in law the natural complementary of man and woman in creation, then the natural family is undermined. Our individual lives become artificial constructs protected by civil "rights" that destroy natural rights. Human dignity and human rights are then reduced to the whims of political majorities. When the ways of nature and nature's God conflict with civil law, society is in danger. It is to that danger that we direct your attention.

Hilarious and sad. "Human dignity and human rights are then reduced to the whims of political majorities" pretty perfectly describes the process that enabled political majorities to easily pass "Don't ask, don't tell," the Defense of Marriage act and Jim Crow laws, too. Now, as tables continue to turn against discrimination, majority rule a terrible, condemnable practice. Which is at least consistent with the fact that most Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on civil marriage. No majority rule in the cardinal's house.

The letter is signed by Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Bishop George J. Rassas, Bishop Francis J. Kane, Bishop Alberto Rojas, Bishop John R. Manz, Bishop Andrew P. Wypych and Bishop Joseph N. Perry. So, if you ever wondered what elderly virgin men in a festive red frocks and lacy white dresses think about civil marriage, there's that.

Getting less attention in the press unfortunately is the fact that more than 200 faith leaders have joined the coaltion Illinois Unites for Marriage to endorse the bill.

The Rev. Julia Melgreen, pastor of Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield and a signer of the letter, said her acceptance of same-sex marriage was an evolutionary process, and was clinched, in part, by a young person from her congregation who came out as gay “and was so broken-hearted, wondering if God loved him.”

“(On this issue), I’m going to make a judgment on the side of love and grace,” said Melgreen, noting that the United Methodist denomination voted in 2012 to deny marriage equality.

“I haven’t always been in this place, and I haven’t always been as brave as I should be,” she said.

National Organization for Marriage is also engaged in leading opposition, just as they did civil unions bill in 2010.

Your marriage equality FAQ for Illinois:

  • Prospects for Senate passage are good, prognosis in the Assembly House is less clear. The stronger the Senate vote, the more pressure will be delivered to the assembly.
  • Gov. Quinn is a marriage equality supporter, and his signature is assured.
  • Illinois legislature is scheduled to break Jan. 8.
  • There is no mechanism for voter repeal by ballot referendum in Illinois. So if the legislature takes the plunge, it's pretty much a done deal.
  • Of course, Catholic cardinal's grave concerns notwithstanding, no church would be required to perform any marriage that violates the tenets of their religion.
  • Still no reports of the sky falling in CT, IA, MA, MD, ME, NH, NY, VT, WA and DC. Will post updates as that story develops.
• TAKE ACTION: If you live in Illinois, you can reach your representative by using the Illinois Unites for Marriage tool here. Plug in your zip code and provides email options and telephone contacts for your representatives.

Update: Windy City Times is reporting that advocates have changed strategies and for procedural expediency have opted to amend an existing bill to include the provision, allowing a vote as soon as 11 AM CST Thursday.

Update 2: More delays as Democrats report there will be no vote this week in Springfield. Advocates remain optimistic about the bill's prospects but path is not clear for this session. Democrats maintain control of both chambers in 2013, for what it's worth.

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 06:53 AM PST.

Also republished by Angry Gays, Kossacks for Marriage Equality, Land of Lincoln Kos, and Madison County, Illinois Kossacks.

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