Chicago, IL —
Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP national board of directors, sent a letter Friday urging Illinois lawmakers to grant equal rights to "my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters."
"I believe that marriage strengthens families and communities. I believe that marriage provides the protection and security that every loving couples needs and deserves," wrote Bond, who served as chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2009. "I believe that marriage is a universal right, guaranteed equal protection under the law."
The letter released by Illinois Unites for Marriage - a coalition led by Equality Illinois
, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois - comes at a critical time for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which has already been approved in the Illinois Senate and awaits a full vote in the House.
On Friday, Cardinal Francis George joined a group of African-American ministers in opposition to same-sex marriage. The group announced a new round of automated robocalls aimed at African-American households. The recorded message features the voice of Rev. James Meeks, who opposed civil union legislation when he was in the Illinois General Assembly.
Thirteen other African-American clergy shared a different message on Thursday. The faith leaders gathered in support of marriage equality.
"We are more than a one-issue community, and we represent many different religious views, but we can all recognize the fundamental value of the law of the land applying equally to all citizens," said Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver, St. Edmund's Episcopal Church.
The faith leaders' encouragement comes at a time of strong support for marriage equality in Illinois, especially within the black community. A December 2012 Public Policy Poll showed that in Illinois, 60% of African-Americans surveyed supported same-sex marriage. A recent Crain's/Ipsos poll shows Illinoisans supporting marriage equality, with 50 percent in favor and only 29 percent opposed. Of the 50 percent in support, 37 percent "strongly" support the freedom to marry. Full text of the letter by Bond:
I've spent my life as a civil rights activist, working to make our society more just and fair for all of us. It is that commitment to equality that has led me to support marriage for all committed couples.
I believe that marriage strengthens families and communities. I believe that marriage provides the protection and security that every loving couples needs and deserves. I believe that marriage is a universal right, guaranteed equal protection under the law.
That's why I'm urging the Illinois House of Representatives to extend the freedom to marry to all families. Will you join me? Click here to send a message to your Representative, asking for a "yes" vote on marriage equality: equalityfederation.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp.
I've experienced the joys of marriage for more than 20 years. My wife Pamela and I stood before our friends and family and made a lifelong commitment to one another. We've taken care of each other ever since.
My gay and lesbian brothers and sisters simply want the freedom to make that same commitment. And they deserve the same protection that my wife and I have. It's just that simple.
All across the state, fair-minded Illinoisans like you are coming together to move us closer than we've ever been to securing the freedom to marry in the Land of Lincoln. But we have to keep pushing until we win approval on the House floor.
Make sure your Representative hears from an outpouring of constituents before our next critical vote. Send a message now.
Thank you for making this one of the strongest grassroots movements Illinois has ever seen.