The Fate Of Marriage Equality In Illinois As Activists Launch New Legislative Push

CREDIT: Waymon Hudson

Thousands rally for marriage equality in Springfield, Illinois.

On Tuesday, thousands marched and rallied for marriage equality in Springfield, Illinois as the state legislature reconvened for the fall veto session. However, it’s unclear if the bill will come up for a vote, especially now that the House leadership has canceled its Thursday session, further limiting the time available for a very busy agenda. According to BuzzFeed, it won’t come up until November 5, the very last day of the veto session — if at all.

As the Windy City Times’ Tracy Baim explained last month, the situation is complicated by a behind-the-scenes strategy, such that it’s difficult to determine which lawmaker stands where on the issue until a vote is actually held. Still, there is reason to be optimistic that the bill has better chances than it did when lawmakers failed to bring it up to a vote in June. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor, which nullified the position of those satisfied with Illinois’ civil unions. Some of the federal benefits now available to same-sex couples are not available to couples in civil unions, and Social Security will only be offered to couples living in marriage equality states.

The Windsor decision is having a lasting impact on public sentiment as well, according to a new poll from Equality Illinois. The poll found that 52 percent of Illinois voters support marriage equality, but when they were reminded of Windsor and the fact that Illinois same-sex couples cannot access federal benefits, support climbed to 54 percent. Only 40 percent oppose marriage equality — a number that dipped to 39 percent when reminded of the fall of DOMA.

Opponents of marriage equality, led by the hate group-identified Illinois Family Institute, will hold their own march in Springfield Wednesday. IFI’s rhetoric is incredibly hostile, with Cultural Analyst Laurie Higgins describing homosexuality this summer as a “tyrannical, oppressive, poisonous cultural force.” She also recently compared homosexuality to theft, plagiarism, promiscuity, and substance abuse, defending anti-gay bullying in schools. IFI believes homosexuality can be changed and even offers a guide for when married — or as IFI says, “married” — same-sex couples decide to repent of their lifestyles.

Recent marriage equality victories in other states provide guidance for how the legislation might prevail in Illinois. At Tuesday’s rally, prominent lawmakers were already leading the charge by publicly calling for the bill’s passage. Here’s a highlight reel from Progress Illinois, featuring Gov. Pat Quinn (D), Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D), and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D):