CHICAGO — May 2, 2013 — As the final vote in the Illinois House of Representatives approaches, a group of renowned country musicians announced their support for extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples in Illinois. The music stars voiced their support in an open letter, stating that, "when two people are lucky enough to find each other and want to commit their lives to one another, it is nothing less than a blessing to us all."
"Traditionally speaking, country music, arguably more than any other genre, draws its inspiration from that inexplicable conundrum known as the human condition. Songs and stories of love, family, joy, and human imperfection are the root of its appeal," the letter states. "To deny our gay brothers and sisters the right to legally ritualize their love — to marry — is to deny that they too experience the complexity of human emotion that make a song like Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" the shared phenomenon that it is."
The musicians signing the letter are:
Emmylou Harris — Beloved music icon and twelve-time Grammy Award-winning artist. Harris is inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame and is ranked No. 5 in CMT's 40 Greatest Women of Country Music.
"Big Kenny" Alphin — half of the popular music duo Big & Rich and influential songwriter for artists including Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean.
Rodney Crowell — a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter of the critically acclaimed album Diamonds & Dirt. Crowell was married to Rosanne Cash and has collaborated with artists as diverse as Vince Gill and Bob Seger.
Mary Chapin Carpenter — five-time Grammy-winning musician and singer of the hit song "Passionate Kisses." Carpenter is the only artist to have won four consecutive Grammys for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, from 1992 to 1995.
The letter comes at a time when a growing majority of Americans believe gays and lesbians should have the freedom to marry. A recent Crain's/Ipsos poll shows Illinoisans supporting marriage equality, with 50 percent in favor and only 29 percent opposed. Of the 50 percent in support, 37 percent "strongly" support the freedom to marry.
"It's the artist's job to remind us that the heart is the place where our true holiness resides. It's why the word 'heart' is pervasive in so many great songs," the letter concludes. "Gay or straight, when two people are lucky enough to find each other and want to commit their lives to one another, it is nothing less than a blessing to us all."
Illinois Unites for Marriage — a coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois — is continuing its statewide campaign in support of the bill, marshaling support and urging allies to step up contacts with their legislators as the House vote approaches. The coalition supporting the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples — already strong with business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, professional athletes, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American leaders, Republicans and Democrats — continues to grow.
Information about the legislation is available at www.illinoisunites.org, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard.