Illinois state representatives have filed a much-anticipated marriage equality bill in the Illinois General Assembly, local LGBT groups announced Feb. 8.
Reps. Greg Harris, Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy have introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would allow same-sex couples to marry in Illinois.
"We commend these leaders for taking yet another step towards full equality for lesbian and gay families in Illinois, and we are grateful to them for their leadership. This is just the beginning: the road to marriage equality is sure to be long, but it is one that we must travel together," said LGBT organization Equality Illinois in a statement.
But Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov warns that fight will be far from easy.
"I really do think we will have marriage equality within the near future," Cherkasov said, but added, "I don't think it's going to pass tomorrow."
Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda ( TCRA ) , expressed similar sentiments.
"Marriage has always been one of the principal goals for our organization and we are pleased to finally be able to move forward towards achieving that goal," Martinez said in a statement.
Martinez said the timing is exciting, with the news coming just a day after California's anti-marriage equality amendment Proposition 8 being ruled unconstitutional. Still, Martinez told Windy City Times, the Illinois bill would not likely pass this time around.
"People need to understand that this is not a slam dunk," he said. "We have work to do."
Harris has introduced similar bills in years past, all of which failed. This year, may be no different, said activists.
But Cherkasov added that marriage bills have often been introduced alongside civil union legislation, giving lawmakers the option to choose between the two. Civil unions were less controversial and easier to pass, he said. But the advent of civil unions has shown that "separate but equal" has failed, said Cherkasov.
"What we know now about civil unions is that they haven't worked to provide full equality," he said.
People in same-sex civil unions have reported many circumstances in which they were denied recognition this year in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Revenue originally announced that civil union spouses could not file taxes jointly because Illinois filings are required to match federal filings. Due to the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples cannot file jointly at the federal level. The Department of Revenue later reversed that decision after pressure from LGBT advocates.
A group of lawmakers that also included Ann Williams, Sara Feigenholtz and Senator Heather Steans began talks in January over the latest marriage legislation.
The bill is listed here:
Synopsis As Introduced
Creates the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Contains provisions regarding purposes, rules of construction, and severability. Provides that: all laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children; parties to a marriage and their children, regardless of whether the marriage is of a same-sex or different-sex couple, have the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law; parties to a marriage are included in any definition or use of terms such as "spouse", "family", "immediate family", "dependent", "next of kin", "wife", "husband", "bride", "groom", "wedlock", and other terms that refer to or denote the spousal relationship, as those terms are used throughout the law, regardless of whether the parties to a marriage are of the same sex or different sexes; and, to the extent laws this State adopt, refer to, or rely upon provisions of federal law as applicable to this State, parties to a marriage of the same sex and their children shall be treated under the law of this State as if federal law recognized the marriages of same-sex couples in the same manner as the law of this State. Amends the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act by making various changes concerning: parties who may marry; solemnization; prohibited marriages; jurisdiction; and other matters. Amends the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act. Makes various changes and additions regarding recognition of marriages. Authorizes the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage under specified circumstances. Makes other changes.