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Ill. pols make push for marriage equality at march
by Matt Simonette and Kate Sosin

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Major political figures from Gov. Pat Quinn to Attorney General Lisa Madigan surrounded LGBT leaders Oct. 22 to send a message to the Illinois House: pass the Illinois marriage equality bill.

Quinn called same-sex marriage equality "the most important civil rights measure of our time."

"The time for marriage equality has come," Quinn said. "This is our hour. This is our moment. ... Marriage equality has already passed in the Illinois Senate. I am prepared to sign it as soon as the House of Representatives passes this bill."

Quinn and Madigan were among more than 15 political leaders to speak in favor of SB10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act at a press conference held in conjuction with a major rally in support of the bill.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I think that marriage equality is just that," said Madigan. "It is about equality. It is about fairness. It is about respect. It is about families. It is about love. It is about time that the Illinois House of Representatives passes marriage equality."

Those comments came as a thousands of LGBT people and allies surrounded the Capitol Oct. 22 for the March on Springfield, a first of its kind rally aimed at pressing an indecisive House into supporting the bill.

"There are some who question whether anyone can come from Washington and give advice in the State Capitol," said Sen. Richard Durbin. "...It's great to be here in Springfield. It's great to be anywhere other than Washington, D.C., today."

"The reason I wanted to be here is I want to be witness to this historic moment. This is our time. This is our opportunity to end discrimination in our state against gay and lesbian couples. It is time for us to remember in this land of Lincoln, ( that ) we have made it our purpose to end that discrimination," added Durbin.

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, reminded the crowd that one-third of Americans live in states with marriage equality.

"Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, must do what is just, what is right, and pass the marriage bill," said Cherkasov.

"So much has changed since March 31stst, when the House adjourned without taking up this measure," he added. "One, the Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. And now the federal government treats married gay and lesbian couples equally. Now, because they cannot get married in their own state, tens of thousands of gay and lesbian couples, and their children, in Illinois do not have access to crucial federal benefits and protections like social security survivorship benefits, joint tax filings and even the right to be buried next to their military spouse."

The Illinois Senate passed the measure on Valentine's Day. The House had been expected to vote on the bill in the spring, but it fell short on votes and chief sponsor Rep. Greg Harris declined to call the bill before session expired May 31.

Harris told a packed gallery that night that his colleagues had pledged support SB10 in the fall. Sponsors have two opportunities to pass the bill during veto session— Oct. 22-24 or Nov. 5-7. Harris has declined to give a timeline on the bill.

But Harris drove home the urgency of the measure Oct. 22.

"I call upon my colleagues to do the right thing, to answer the voices of history, to follow in the footsteps of those of us who have gone before and extend the benefits of liberty to all citizens of Illinois, to all families," said Harris, adding later, "We need to step up and we need to do the right thing."

Other politicians in attendance included State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Senate President John Cullerton, Sens. Daniel Biss, Heather Steans, David Koehler, Melinda Bush, Toi Hutchinson, Julie Morrison; Reps. Christian Mitchell, Sam Yingling, Toni Berrios and Ken Dunkin.

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