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Illinois marriage bill stalled, pushed to next general assembly
Update 8:15 p.m. 2013-01-03
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times

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With the limited time remaining in the lame duck session, advocates said Thursday night that there isn't enough time to pass the full Illinois marriage equality bill in the lame duck session, so they will focus instead on work in the next general assembly, which begins Jan. 9.

Despite passing as an amendment to another bill in the Senate executive committee Thursday evening, advocates decided to regroup and present a new bill in the Senate and House starting next week, the start of the 98 General Assembly.

"There is no way for us to pass the bill in one house and continue in the other house in next assembly," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, one of several groups pushing for marriage equality in the state. "With just a handful of days remaining in the current lame duck session, time to move the bill through both chambers is not on our side."

Rick Garcia, senior policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda, was upset with the decision to back down now. He said late Thursday night that he thinks the measure had a chance.

"What I have learned—and I have been down here [in Springfield] for 20 years, and I have worked things—is that on every piece of legislation I have worked on, there are dark times, when you think it's not going to go. You push forward, and you stand firm, you move and move until you can't move any more. To throw in the towel now is a stupid maneuver. TCRA is here, and we've been here for past three years, and we knew nothing about this decision until we saw the press release."

In a statement, EI said: "Our opponents should not believe they have turned the tide against the growing national and Illinois consensus favoring marriage equality. The clock simply ran out, and our legislative supporters ran out of time."

"Today, a few key Senators could not be here for family reasons. What's important when we reconvene is that we work to protect and strengthen all Illinois families, and that's what this legislation does," Democratic Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago said in a statement issued to the media. "I'm confident we can advance this bill in the coming weeks."

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin published a letter Thursday urging legislators to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act: "I urge you to vote for Marriage Equality in Illinois so that our state can be part of the emerging national consensus on this issue of justice."

Senate sponsor Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and House sponsor Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said support for marriage equality is building across Illinois.

"More and more Illinoisans agree that if a gay couple wants to make a lifelong commitment to each other, the law should not stand in their way. They agree that same-sex couples and their families should not be treated differently or occupy a second-class status," said Harris.

"We are confident we have the votes to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act," said Steans. "If we'd had full attendance, we'd be passing this legislation today."

The groups pushing for the measure say there are positive signs that marriage equality will pass this next session:

— The new Illinois House and Senate are considered to be more supportive of LGBT issues.

— The fight for marriage equality brought together religious leaders, business, labor unions, African-American and Latino communities, Democrats and Republicans, representing themselves and millions of Illinoisans.

— A coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and ACLU of Illinois and including scores more organizations, including The Civil Rights Agenda, came together under Illinois Unites for Marriage to campaign for the bill.

— The support of President Obama, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady and many more leaders.

For more background see: .

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