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Marriage Battle in Illinois
by TRACY BAIM
2004-01-21

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Pictured Grunloh (left) and Mitchell.

Even though Illinois passed a Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, two state representatives are grandstanding on the issue of same-sex marriage, introducing competing anti-gay marriage amendment laws.

Republican Rep. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and Democratic Rep. William J. Grunloh of Effingham both are backing bills to change the Illinois constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Mitchell's bill goes further, attempting to nullify existing laws, saying that 'civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Illinois.' Both Cook County and Oak Park offer partner registries for same-sex couples.

Mitchell is a member of the House Republican Organization leadership and the right-wing Eagle Forum named him to their Illinois' 2001 Hall of Honor for Conservative State Representatives—those with an 80% or better voting record on their issues. Grunloh is a Catholic who was appointed to the 108th District seat vacated by Charles Hartke.

A state constitutional amendment must be approved by three-fifths majority in the House and the Senate, then it goes to the voters. Grunloh wants his bill on the November ballot. The Defense of Marriage Act passed easily in Illinois several years ago, and the state gay-rights bill continues to linger just shy of the votes needed to pass, even though the Democrats now control both the House and Senate, as well as the governor's mansion.

'This is an unprincipled attack on gay and lesbian Illinoisans and our families,' said Rick Garcia, director of Equality Illinois. 'In 1996 the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting same-sex marriage. This amendment is nothing more than an act of bigotry and an attempt to demean and degrade gay Illinoisans. It's election year politicking of the rankest order. '

Garcia was attacking Grunloh's bill, which defines marriage as a 'union between a man and a woman.' Soon, Mitchell also introduced his even more extremist bill.

'Rep. Grunloh's amendment is not born out of a concern for marriage and families or genuine religious conviction but is born out of animosity toward gay people and rank bigotry. He should be ashamed, but bigots seldom are,' said Garcia. 'If Grunloh is truly motivated by his religious convictions or a desire to protect marriage, will he introduce a constitutional amendment banning divorce in Illinois? Marriage doesn't need to be protected from gay people. Gay people need to be protected from these bigots,' Garcia said.

Last fall, Grunloh introduced legislation that would allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings throughout the state.

'What I'm trying to do is show my commitment to the family values of this district and this state and this nation. I think our Constitution provides us freedom of religion, not freedom from religion,' he said.

Grunloh has been a businessmen in Effingham for 29 years. His town, in Effingham County in Central Illinois, has a population of just over 12,000, and is more than 97% white. Statistics show that 22% of the area's adults have never been married, 11% are divorced, and just 53% are now married; 11% are widowed, just under 2% separated.

His Springfield Office: 258-W Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL, 62706 (217) 782-2087, (217) 524-0867 FAX; District Office: 405 S. Banker St., Ste. 102-C, Effingham 62401, (217) 342-2353, (217) 347-3305 FAX.

Rep. Bill Mitchell's town of Forsyth is northwest of Decatur in Macon County in Central Illinois, with a population of 2,434. In his town, 15% of adults have never been married, 74.8% are now married, 4% are divorced, just under 1% separated, and just over 5% widowed. More than 96% of the town's residents are white.

Springfield Office: 240-W Stratton Office Building, Springfield, IL, 62706, (217) 782-8163, (217) 782-1139 FAX; District Office: 332 W. Marion, Suite N-1, Forsyth, IL, 62535, (217) 876-1968, (217) 876-1973 FAX.


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