Chicago, IL —
Just minutes before marching in the 43rd annual Chicago Pride Parade June 24, Illinois' top two elected officials expressed optimism that the state is moving closer to allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
"We're moving forward," Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) said. "The key is to get a majority in both houses of the Legislature to get a bill on my desk I can sign. I think we're closer every day."
In January 2011 Quinn signed the law that allowed gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions. That took effect in June 2011, and Quinn said the state's experience with it has paved the way toward full marriage equality.
"The record of the civil unions bill that we signed last year is that hundreds have been performed all over the state," Quinn said. "That sets a good foundation."
He also said President Obama's recent announcement in support of full marriage equality for gays and lesbians has moved the issue forward.
"The president's support is going to be helpful, especially in Illinois," Quinn said.
The governor urged supporters of marriage equality to let their voices be heard in Springfield.
"Reforms have come about when people come together and participate in a positive way," Quinn said.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D) echoed Quinn's optimism.
"We're going to get there," Simon said. "It's just a matter of when. We're further ahead on marriage than I thought we'd be at this point."
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) filed legislation to allow marriage equality in the Illinois House of Representatives earlier this year. Co-sponsored by state Reps. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Deb Mell (D-Chicago), the bill is on hold but could re-emerge any time the sponsors think they have the votes to pass it, including during the Legislature's veto session later this year.
In the United States, gay and lesbian couples can legally marry in six states ¨C Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont ¨C and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington have passed legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry but those laws have not taken effect. In addition, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island recognize gay and lesbian marriages performed in other states, as does California in some cases. Eleven states, including Illinois, allow civil unions or some other form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples.
Recent polls show that a majority of Americans now favor marriage equality.
On the federal level, the U.S. government is prohibited from recognizing the marriages or civil unions of gay and lesbian couples under the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996. Some federal court rulings in recent years have ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional; appeals in those cases are expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. In February 2011 President Obama said he agreed that DOMA is unconstitutional and directed the U.S. Department of Justice to quit defending the law. Republicans in the U.S. House subsequently retained legal counsel to defend it.Update:
Parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer said officials estimated the crowd at the 43rd Annual Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday at 850,000, which breaks last year's record turnout of between 750,000 to 800,000.
(850,000 come out for Chicago Pride Parade