Anti-gay group building support for referendum banning same-sex marriage
Chicago, IL —
A number of gay rights advocacy groups countered a contingent of nearly 150 anti-gay protestors during a rally for "traditional marriage" in downtown Chicago on Friday.
The rally to "protect marriage" was organized by a number of anti-gay groups, including Americans for Life, and fell just days before a historic day for LGBT rights in Illinois.
On Wednesday, June 1, Illinois will for the first time recognize civil unions, giving same-sex couples many of the same rights, benefits, and privileges as married couples.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), one of the co-sponsors of Illinois' civil unions legislation, told GoPride.com that the right-wing groups instigating the rally are "hugely upset that in Illinois we have chosen equality for our citizens."
The Gay Liberation Network
's Bob Schwartz told the Windy City Times
that the "civil unions bill was not the real target" for the rally but was "an organizing tool for an anti-gay marriage amendment."
Peter LaBarbera, head of the Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, confirmed that the goal of the rally was to support a referendum for an Illinois constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and its equivalent.
"There's a battle between gay rights and religious freedom," LaBarbera told the Chicago Tribune
. "We want to give Illinois voters the same opportunity other states have had. Whether they are red or blue, states seem to go the same way."
A 1996 Illinois law already prohibits same-sex marriage, but gay-marriage opponents, including LaBarbera, say they fear courts could overturn the law unless the state constitution is changed.
In 2006 the Illinois Family Institute, then headed by LaBarbera, started a petition drive to place an anti-gay marriage amendment in the Illinois Constitution. The petitions were so plagued with errors and questionable signatures that they were ruled invalid
by the Illinois Election Commission.
The City of Chicago plans a celebration of civil unions on Thursday, June 2 when 30 same-sex couples gather in Millennium Park for a ceremony in their honor. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plan to attend
. Related: Click here to see additional photospread
from the rally by Joe Franco for the Windy City Times