Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment SC0016, which would have amended the Illinois constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and thus effectively barred same-sex marriage in the state, has been declared dead by LGBT activists.
Rick Garcia is a long-time activist and a former member of Equality Illinois; he had been following the progress of the amendment, which was first introduced on February 10, 2011 by Senator William R. Haine. Speaking to Windy City Times a few hours after the amendment was moved, he said, with evident delight, "Subcommittees are where you put bills to die. And there are no members appointed to the subcommittee on constitutional amendments. The bill went to committee and it was quickly dispatched as it should have been."
Besides Garcia, the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ) and The Civil Rights Agenda ( TCRA ) were among those following the proposing amendment. The ACLU's communications director, Ed Yohnka told WCT that the apparent defeat of the amendment means that, " the efforts by some members of the Illinois general assembly to advance a constitutional amendment that would write discrimination into the Illinois constitution has been stopped this year. On the heels of the adoption of civil unions in Illinois and the wide-ranging public support for civil unions, Illinois was not going to turn the clock back twenty years and pass the amendment. "
According to Yohnka, what he identified as "larger public attitude shifts across Illinois and the country" in terms of greater acceptance of same-sex marriage meant that the amendment was a "non-starter" from the beginning. Expanding on that point, he said that, "You see legislators who will propose some sort of legislative activity who are really not doing so with the expectation that it will pass, but they get a press release or it fills the needs of some narrow constituency in their district."
Anthony Martinez is the executive director of TCRA, which was formed in summer 2010, and he, like Garcia and Yohnka, is confident that there should be no concern that the amendment or anything like it will come up in the rest of the year. However, he emphasized that activists fighting for same sex marriage in Illinois "need to be vigilant in watching who's going to be running in 2012 and in ensuring we're electing the right people." He cited the efforts of conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage to rally anti-gay marriage activists on the issue.
Garcia similarly emphasized the need for vigilance, pointing out that "killing something like this is just as important" as passing something like the civil unions bill ( which he worked on, when he was a member of Equality Illinois ) .
Windy City Times called Equality Illinois's ( EI ) executive director Bernard Cherkasov for an interview about the news and on the organization's role in killing the amendment. He responded with an email that did not address EI's role and these words, "Year after year, angry right-wing extremists in the Illinois General Assembly bring up the same anti-marriage-equality Constitutional amendment. The proposal is deeply unpopular with Illinoisans, who overwhelmingly support equal treatment for same-sex couples."