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Equality Illinois PAC gathers to support pro-marriage legislators
by Matt Simonette

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Officials of Equality Illinois PAC, as well as many of its supporters, gathered at Hubbard Inn, 110 W. Hubbard St., Feb. 27 to raise financial support for eight legislators who voted "yes" on SB10 in 2013.

Among those in attendance were State Rep. Sam Yingling, Ald. Deb Mell, Cook County Clerk David Orr and contributor Christina Kahrl.

"All of the candidates are looking good in the primary, but we have to leave no stone unturned," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. "We have to stand by our friends."

The candidates Equality Illinois PAC is supporting include state Sen. Don Harmon, and state Reps. Jaime Andrade, Toni Berrios, Thaddeus Jones, Christian Mitchell, Ron Sandack, Ed Sullivan and Kathleen Willis.

Cherkasov said that Equality Illinois PAC is running 18 phone banks several days a week until the primary election; the organization expects to make about 60,000 phone calls before then. "Every space in the office is full—we have people sitting on the floor," he added.

Attorney Nicole Bashor said that, while other states' LGBT residents have had to fend off harmful legislation, such as in Indiana or Arizona, Illinoisans have to demonstrate that there will be no retribution from voters brought upon legislators who voted in favor of marriage equality. "Other states are watching Illinois to see what we do," added Bashor.

Yingling said that his constituents were largely supportive of his vote for gay marriage. "I received an outpouring of congratulations. The district realized that this was a no-brainer," said Yingling, who is not facing a challenger in his primary race.

Many spoke of other directions Equality Illinois and similar organizations might take once marriage becomes convenient and obtainable for all residents of the state. Cherkasov said the organization would turn to issues such as transgender rights and school bullying.

"Every victory we've achieved has been a coalition effort," said Cherkasov. "We're going to have to bring weight to bear upon these issues. Marriage is one good example of what happens when everyone works together."

"It's going to be harder going forward," admitted Equality Illinois co-founder Art Johnston. "Everybody 'gets' the idea of marriage—but these other things are extremely important."

Orr said that, as of Feb. 26, 87 same-sex couples had obtained licenses to be married at the County Clerk's Office.

"By today [Feb. 27], I expect there should have been about 100," he said, adding that applicants ages have ranged from 18- to 80-years old. "We haven't had a stampede, which is actually a good thing—we want to make sure people know the licenses are only good for 60 days, and I know a lot of people will want June weddings."

One couple that won't be going in right away for their license is Yingling and his partner Lowell Jaffe, who got engaged at the governor's mansion the day the House passed SB10.

"It won't be until 2015—I have to get through the election," said Yingling. "I'm afraid I'm going to turn into a groomzilla."

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