The United States claims to be the most free and independent country in the world. Yet all of our citizens do not have equal rights. In Illinois, same-sex couples have to fight to visit each other in hospitals, make health care decisions, and raise children together.
That is not true equality and fairness. We believe that needs to change, and the time is now.
I, Rep. Greg Harris, D-13th District, have introduced Civil Unions and Same-Sex Marriage bills in the House each session for each of the past two General Assemblies.
And now I, State Sen. Heather Steans, D-7th District, want to make it clear that it is a priority not just of an openly gay representative in the House but, in fact, fair-minded straight people in the Senate to work toward equal rights.
I believe that my husband and I shouldn't be treated any differently than my many LGBT friends in their relationships. That's why I am introducing the "Equal Marriage Act" in the Senate and will work with my colleagues to bring Illinois back to the forefront of human rights.
Over and over again, our collective American community has learned the painful lesson that separate can never be equal. In the 19th century, women across this country came together to fight for the basic right to vote. In the 20th century, it took a brave young girl in Kansas to teach us that we cannot provide equal education in segregated classrooms. Marriage equality is our civil rights battle for the 21st century. When one of us is discriminated against, we are all discriminated against.
In 2004, an ABC poll showed just 32 percent of Americans favoring gay marriage. Now 49 percent support it, versus 46 percent opposedthe first time in ABC/Post polls that supporters outnumbered opponents. Moreover, 53 percent believe equal marriages held legally in another state should be recognized as legal in their states.
Five progressive statesMassachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and our neighbor, Iowanow have full marriage equality. In Maine, voters will go to the polls to decide whether equal rights should be granted to same-sex couples.
It is under consideration in many other states, and should be made clear to everyone in Illinois that this is a fight we will not quit. No session will go by in the Senate or the House where this battle will not be foughtand in the interest of justice, fairness and the principle set forth by our founding fathers, we will win.