Momentum Builds For Possible Gay Marriage Vote in Ill.
After months of energetic lobbying, both sides in the Illinois same-sex marriage debate are ready for a vote next week that supporters say would fulfill a pledge by the sponsor to bring the issue back to Springfield.
Anticipating a likely vote during the final week of the veto session, some lawmakers previously on the fence have announced their position on the question. Others are quickly drafting proposed changes so they can support the bill. More activists are calling for immediate action. And even opponents are planning for fallout ahead of the campaign season.
One legislator who firmed up his support is Rep. Al Riley, an Olympia Fields Democrat who’s been hesitant to discuss his position publicly. He told The Associated Press he’s now a "yes."
"I’m not in the business of discriminating against people," he said. The road to "good public policy is that you don’t talk about it all the damn time."
The home state of President Barack Obama has been surprisingly resistant to same-sex marriage, even with Democrats leading the House, Senate and governor’s office. The Senate passed the measure on Valentine’s Day, but it wasn’t called for a vote in the House because sponsor Rep. Greg Harris said he didn’t have the 60 needed votes. In the waning hours of the spring session in May, he gave a tearful speech saying he’d give his colleagues more time and vowed to bring up the bill again.
Now those on both sides are gearing up for it next week, when lawmakers return to Springfield. And without much progress so far on other high profile issues like pensions, their focus is magnified.
"We have done everything we could to help ensure Greg Harris’ promise to the people of the state of Illinois: Their representatives would go home to their districts and come back and vote on the bill," said John Kohlhepp, a union lobbyist hired to lead the same-sex marriage campaign.
Backers of the legislation wouldn’t discuss vote tallies, saying it’s too fluid. But those close to the bill appear to have a little more confidence.
"I’m feeling good," said Harris, a Chicago Democrat. "Things are moving in the right direction."
He said the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has continued to climb: currently there are 14 plus Washington D.C. Also the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision over the summer to strike down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act has added to the momentum, Harris said.
Aside from Riley, others have voiced support. Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, a Hillside Democrat who wavered, said he’s now solidly in favor. He said he sees it as a civil rights issue.