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Momentum builds for marriage as bill heads for House
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Illinois's same-sex marriage bill was headed for the House after the measure passed out of the Senate on Valentine's Day. The bill was expected to be heard in committee Feb. 26.

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act had been assigned to the House Executive Committee, its first test before it can go a full House vote.

Momentum for the measure continues to build.

Illinois Unites for Marriage, a coalition of groups supporting marriage equality, announced Feb. 24 that 23 prominent Latino leaders had signed a letter in support of the bill. Among those signing that letter were former Chicago City Clerk Miguel Del Valle; Mona Noriega, director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations; Jesse H. Ruiz, vice president of the Chicago board of education; former mayoral hopeful and attorney Gery Chico; and Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum.

"As Latinos, we know our families are stronger when we stay together," the letter read. "We never turn our backs on family. That includes supporting the freedom to marry for our gay and lesbian sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles."

Supporters will also have the backing of Sister Donna Quinn, the prominent Catholic nun whose backing of abortion rights has been a source of ongoing controversy. Quinn will be in Springfield talking with lawmakers in the coming days, said Rick Garcia, policy advisory for The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA).

TCRA held a forum on the bill in Peoria Feb. 24, aimed at bolstering support in central Illinois. Other coalition groups have reported making almost 100,000 calls to Illinoisans, asking them to encourage their representatives to pass the bill.

The Human Rights Campaign has also put 15 field organizers on the bill. Freedom to Marry, another national LGBT organization, is investing $800,000 in six marriage battle states, Illinois among them.

A date has not ben set for a full House vote yet, said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

"There's not clear sense yet of when the full House vote will be," Cherkasov said.

Cherkasov added that a vote on the bill on March 1 was possible but unlikely. LGBT leaders are eying a possible mid-week vote the following week. That could mean a vote on March 6 or 7.

The bill comfortably passed out of the Senate Feb. 14, and momentum from that gain was expected to help in the House, where a harder fight has been predicted.

The House is the final hurdle for the measure before it heads to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk. Quinn strongly supports the bill.

For updates on the bill's progress, check out our online coverage at .

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