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  WINDY CITY TIMES

African American leaders back IL marriage equality
From a news release
2013-01-02

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CHICAGO — January 2, 2013 — As a crucial vote in Springfield nears, twelve prominent African American leaders came together to announce their support for the passage of marriage equality legislation in Illinois.

The leaders affirmed their support in an open letter urging lawmakers to give Illinois gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry, declaring the bill's passage would lead the state and country in the right direction. Notable supporters who signed the letter include Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp, former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, and Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver.

"We know gay and lesbian couples believe in family and commitment," the leaders stated in a joint letter. "And we know that all families benefit from the protections and security marriage brings."

The backing from African American leaders comes at a time of increased support for marriage equality in the United States. In Illinois, a December 2012 poll commissioned by Public Policy Polling shows that 60% of African Americans surveyed supported same-sex marriage. The open letter touches on how marriage has evolved throughout history to reflect the progress of society.

"We remember that not long ago, some states defined marriage as limited to people of the same race," the letter states. "Today in Illinois, the rights of gay and lesbian couples to be treated as equal citizens are being violated. Treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter whom the target is."

Overall in Illinois, a Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll found the number of people who support same-sex marriage has increased ten points in two years, while the percentage of those opposing recognition of gay unions has declined by more than six points. A privately commissioned poll from May 2012 found that 54% of Illinoisans support civil marriage for gays and lesbians, compared to 40% opposed.

"Over time, equality and fairness will always win. We in Illinois have a chance to help lead the country in the right direction. The General Assembly should act now and give same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It is the right thing to do," the open letter concludes.

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is sponsored by Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago). Information about the bill is available at www.illinoisunites.org, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard.

An Open Letter from African-American Leaders on Marriage Equality

When President Obama said in 2012 that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, he acknowledged that he, like the American people, had turned a corner on the issue. He acknowledged that government should treat all families with equity, fairness and respect.

Everyone wants the best for their families — to see their son or daughter, their brother or aunt commit to a lifetime with the person they love. We know gay and lesbian couples believe in family and commitment. And we know that all families benefit from the protections and security marriage brings.

We remember that not long ago, some states defined marriage as limited to people of the same race. We were told marriage between people of different races was "unnatural" and that society would be eroded if marriage changed. The truth is, marriage has evolved throughout history to reflect the needs and progress of society.

Today in Illinois, the rights of gay and lesbian couples to be treated as equal citizens are being violated. Treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter whom the target is.

Over time, equality and fairness will always win. We in Illinois have a chance to help lead the country in the right direction. The General Assembly should act now and give same-sex couples the freedom to marry. It is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

James W. Compton, former President and CEO, Chicago Urban League

Monica Haslip, Little Black Pearl Workshop

Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes, West Point Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago

Emil Jones Jr., former President, Illinois Senate

Nichole Pinkard, Founder of the Digital Youth Network and Associate Professor,

DePaul University College of Computing and Digital Media

President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board of Commissioners

Desiree Rogers, CEO, Johnson Publishing Company

Marcus Rogers, Chicago's Black Business Network

Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver, St. Edmunds Episcopal Church, Chicago

Carl West, TBT News Service

Kaye Wilson, educator

Andrea Zopp, president and CEO, Chicago Urban League


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