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Obama backing Illinois marriage push, vote could be days away
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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President Barack Obama has announced his support for marriage equality in his home state, and a vote on the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois could be just days away.

Both faith and business leaders have thrown their weight behind the bill, which already has the backing of Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

On Dec. 29, the president added his support.

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times that if the president were still in the Illinois legislature, he would back a measure to legalize same-sex marriage.

"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," Inouye is quoted saying in the exclusive report.

In an email to supporters, Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov praised the president's stance.

"While we knew of his support for the freedom to marry, the fact that the President wants his home state to achieve it through legislative action is a strong and significant statement to our General Assembly that the time is now to act," Cherkasov said.

Momentum for marriage equality has been building over recent weeks, and advocates believe that a vote could happen as soon as late this week.

Support for same-sex marriage, LGBT candidates and pro-gay lawmakers in November elections appears to have spurred the effort.

Local and national LGBT activists are bound for Springfield, and they are telling supporters to contact their state lawmakers and urge them to vote yes on marriage equality.

"They must call their legislators," said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA). "It really does make all the difference in the world."

Garcia said that LGBT people should call, email and visit lawmakers immediately, regardless of their stance on marriage equality. He also encouraged supporters to head to Springfield later this week to show their support.

Rep. Greg Harris, who introduced the bill, has said that sponsors would not call the measure to a vote unless it had the votes to pass.

Garcia said that the latest reports indicate that the votes are close and that a push on the measure could come sooner rather than later.

"We are very close to having the necessary votes to call it," Garcia said. "When the votes are there, we call the bill."

LGBT advocates believe that a move on the bill could come as soon as Thursday or Friday. Some have said that they believe Harris and Sen. Heather Steans will call the bill early in the lame duck session, while others have predicted that a vote could come on Monday, Jan. 7.

Garcia warned against premature celebration, and said LGBTs should not assume that the heavy lifting is done.

"There is a good chance that the bill will be called, but don't freak out if it isn't," Garcia said.

Still, momentum suggests that legislators believe the bill could pass as soon as this week.

Last week, a group of more than 200 faith leaders released a letter in support of marriage equality in Illinois.

According to the Chicago Tribune, major business players are also poised to announce their support for the bill. Those include Google, Groupon, Morningstar, PrivateBancorp Inc.

Windy City Times will be posting breaking stories on the marriage push all week. Check for ongoing updates.

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