Politicians, groups react to Illinois marriage equality failure

Fri. May 31, 2013 10:02 PM

state rep. greg harris (d-chicago), may 31

photo credit // chicagopride.com
National and local groups respond to the failure of the Illinois House to vote on Senate Bill 10, or the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would have made Illinois the 13th state permitting same-sex marriage.

Read more: Illinois House session ends without vote on marriage equality bill

Illinois Unites Coalition released the following statement:

After five months of negotiation since the Senate voted on SB10 in February, the Illinois House adjourned today without voting on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Members of the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition today called the delay "unacceptable" and vowed to push for victory.

The adjournment comes after a marathon day that saw the House gallery filled with marriage supporters and couples seeking the freedom to marry. The vote on marriage equality is effectively postponed until the next General Assembly session in the fall.

"I am sad to say that our bill, which would give all Illinoisans the freedom to marry, was not called in time before the end of session. However, we cannot let our disappointment today distract us from the fact that equal marriage will soon be a reality in Illinois. Every day, we continue to see more and more Americans embracing equality and fairness," said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the chief House sponsor of the Illinois marriage bill.

"I want to thank the thousands of supporters who have made calls, knocked on doors and met with their representatives over the past few weeks," Harris added. "We could not have gotten this far without you and I know you will be there to push Illinois over the finish line in the fall."

Advocates present today at the capitol building discussed the setback and planned to push legislators to call the bill as soon as possible during the upcoming fall session.

"It is very disappointing that gay and lesbian couples in Illinois will continue to be treated as second-class citizens. To postpone the vote any further is simply unacceptable," said Jim Bennett, Midwest Regional Director for Lambda Legal.

"The failure to call the vote today is disgraceful. In the time since this bill has been sitting in the Illinois House, three other states were able to pass marriage equality through their chambers. However, this proves that our country is moving towards the right side of history, and quickly," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

"We are most distressed for the thousands of couples across the State whose lives and families deserve the dignity and recognition of marriage. We will continue to speak with legislators about the vital need to extend the freedom to marry for these couples. Our litigation filed a year ago this week also continues," said Ed Yohnka of ACLU of Illinois.

Today's news comes in contrast to a backdrop of national and statewide polling showing steadily increasing support for marriage equality. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans and a majority of Illinoisans support extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

In an editorial last week, the Southtown Star wrote, "it really comes down to the basic issues of fairness and equality — gay people should not be denied a fundamental right enjoyed by heterosexual couples. Many social injustices have been eliminated in America. The one regarding same-sex marriage should be next."

Illinois Unites for Marriage — a coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois — is continuing its statewide campaign in support of the bill, marshaling support and urging allies to step up contacts with their legislators prior to the next House session. The coalition supporting the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples — already strong with business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American and Latino leaders, Republicans and Democrats — continues to grow.

Information about the legislation is available at www.illinoisunites.org, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a co-sponsor of SB10, reacts:

Tonight, I share the disappointment of my community that marriage equality was not called. My colleagues and I along with countless dedicated advocates and activists have worked tirelessly to reach the goal of full equality for our families. I had high hopes heading into this legislative session and the let down of not completing our task is very real.

To the thousands of people who have called, written, emailed or visited my office, I thank you for your support and dedication and I promise to continue to work to find the votes needed to pass this bill. As you know, this is also personal for me - I want full equality for my family too.

I have been inspired by the people who have travelled to Springfield to lobby legislators, visited members in their districts, worked phone banks, organized and attended rallies and protests. Please do not give up. This fight is far too important for all of us, but particularly for lgbt youth who are struggling to find acceptance and need this affirmation. Frankly, it isn't fair to tell them that they have to wait for equality.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel reaction:

State Rep Greg Harris' eloquent call for action and recognition of same sex couples must be and will be heard. With his moving words this evening, Rep. Harris made it clear that it is time for us to move forward as a city and state, making marriage a right for all.

Equality Illinois, released the following statement to its membership

It's outrageous. Moments ago, Rep. Greg Harris, the sponsor of the marriage bill, announced that the Illinois House of Representatives is adjourning its spring session without acting on its historic obligation to recognize the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

We are bitter. We are disappointed. We are frustrated. AND WE ARE ANGRY. BUT WE ARE NOT DONE.

It's not over, Jean . The legislators may have adjourned. But for us, there is no adjournment.

Tomorrow, we go back into the field and continue the work of our "I Do" support marriage campaign that began a year ago. We must not stop building on the national momentum and on the support for the freedom to marry that we grew in the half-year of this campaign in Illinois. We are only five months into the 24-month life of the current General Assembly, and we will be back, the next day that the legislators return to session.

You have worked so hard to get this far. Some 500 volunteers working with us and our Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition have made over 220,000 dials to legislators in 38 districts. You have filled out tens of thousands of postcards that were delivered to lawmakers and sent uncountable emails. Together we have built a broad coalition of scores of organizations, more than 300 clergy members, bipartisan political leaders, African-American and Latino officials, and business executives.

Our thanks go to our Illinois Unites partners, Lambda Legal and ACLU of Illinois, to our national allies the Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign, and to the two chief sponsors, Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris.

Together, we all transformed the dialog so that a majority of the state agrees that all loving couples should be allowed to marry so they and their children have the same respect and legal protections. We moved the bill to victory in the Illinois Senate and got it to the floor of the Illinois House.

Yet, because of the utter failure of the House to respect us and our families and call the bill, we'll have to ask you to put your anger and disappointment into action in the months ahead. The day of reckoning will come when voters who support marriage equality have the final say.

We will not rest until the House of Representatives does what is right, what is moral, and what is demanded by the clear majority of Illinoisans and pass the freedom to marry bill. Our fight is not over.

We will prevail!

Bernard Cherkasov
Chief Executive Officer

Gay Liberation Network "Abject Betrayal"

Minutes ago the Illinois General Assembly ended its current session without passing SB10, which with the Governor's signature, would have made Illinois the 13th state to enact equal marriage rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

"House Speaker Mike Madigan, the de facto leader of the Illinois Democratic Party, is responsible for this abject betrayal," said Andy Thayer, long-time equal marriage rights activist and co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network. "Anyone who knows anything about Illinois politics knows that Speaker Mike Madigan owns the House — if he had insisted on a positive vote from his caucus, it would have passed.

"People should remember this when Mike Madigan's daughter runs for the governor next year, which appears to be all but certain. And people should remember that it was Madigan's ally, Representative Greg Harris, who pledged repeatedly to bring the bill to a vote by today, and then broke that promise.

"It's not like this was a politically difficult vote. The latest poll, by Crain's, shows that advocates for equal marriage rights in Illinois out-number our opponents by a nearly two-to-one margin. The Senate passed it and Governor Quinn repeatedly pledged to sign it, but the real power broker in Illinois couldn't be bothered. Speaker Madigan has repeatedly shoveled millions of tax dollars to his wealthy cronies, leaving the state's finances in a total mess, but when it comes to passing civil rights legislation, he refused to spend any political capital."

For more information, contact the Gay Liberation Network at 773.209.1187 or email LGBTliberation@aol.com

The Civil Rights Agenda released the following statement:

Moments ago, the Illinois House of Representatives adjourned without calling the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Despite unprecedented support throughout Illinois, and from almost every statewide elected official, the sponsor of the bill, Greg Harris failed to call the bill to a vote.

"This is what happens when you allow a multi-billionaire and national organizations that have no clue about Illinois politics and how Springfield works call the shots. Sometimes we get exactly what we deserve," said Rick Garica, Policy Director and Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project for The Civil Rights Agenda. "High priced media consultants and high priced lobbyists don't get it done. What gets the job done is real people standing up and speaking out and that was horribly absent from this process. Today is a new day. Rich guys are no longer going to drive this - we are. And we will have marriage equality in Illinois."

"From the beginning, we have been upset about the lack of diversity and inclusion in this process," said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda. "Unfortunately the Sponsor didn't include people of color in the sponsorship of the bill and the rich white guys from the north side of Chicago thought they could get it done with their checkbook. That was the downfall of this bill. We will continue to push and get this done."

HRC released the following statement:

The Illinois House of Representatives has failed to vote on legislation that would have granted marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state, missing the deadline to pass the bill in this legislative session. Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin released the following statement:

"The House of Representatives has neglected the rights of its constituents by failing to vote on marriage equality legislation. For months, LGBT couples and their children have had their lives put on hold throughout an exhaustive political process that ultimately came up short.

"Today's inaction is a prime example of why the U.S. Supreme Court must rule in favor of full marriage equality nationwide to ensure the security and welfare of these and countless other American families aren't left to chance in future political battles.

"We're grateful to the bill's sponsors, state Rep. Greg Harris and state Sen. Heather Steans, for their leadership in getting us this far, and will continue to work with them and all of our allies in Illinois to ultimately achieve full marriage equality.

"We have come so far over the last few months and this tremendous progress is thanks in part to the tremendous leadership of businessman and philanthropist Fred Eychaner, to whom our community is very grateful."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Lambda Legal released the following statement to its membership

After a string of marriage equality victories across the country, the legislature in Illinois has failed to deliver. With earlier passage of the bill in the Senate, active support from the Governor, and enthusiasm and energy from supporters in the House — same-sex couples in Illinois were ready to celebrate their love and equality.

But today, the House let us down.

We're disappointed and outraged. But we're not discouraged. Take heart, Illinoisans: We've got your back, and we'll fight for you in court.

On May 30, 2012, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois each filed lawsuits on behalf of same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. Lambda Legal represents 16 same-sex couples and their children from across the state. The couples have been together between 6 and 48 years, and 10 of the couples are raising children. Barring same-sex couples and their children from marriage is a violation of the Illinois Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process.

There are many paths to justice, and we have no intention of quitting until we have secured the freedom to marry. Our courageous plaintiff families and our expert attorneys are ready to make the case for equality. And while our case moves forward, we will continue to work with state leaders to seek passage of a marriage bill.

Today, we thank all the leaders and activists who worked together to bring us this far — including the bill's sponsors Rep. Harris, Representatives Cassidy and Mell and Sen. Steans, and co-sponsors Senators Koehler, Hutchinson, Harmon and Delgado. We also thank Gov. Quinn, Mayor Emanuel and other elected officials for their strong support. We are grateful to our partners in Illinois Unites for Marriage, the ACLU of Illinois, Equality Illinois, and many other advocates and allies who called, wrote letters and made visits to their elected officials. We all raised the voices of equality across the state — and we were heard.

Kevin Cathcart
Executive Director
Lambda Legal

Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry's national campaign director, released the following statement:

"After an overwhelming victory in the Senate, today's failure by the Illinois House is a disgrace, especially for the thousands of committed same-sex couples who want and deserve to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family and spend the rest of their lives with the person they love, protected and supported by their marriage. Freedom to Marry is proud to be an active partner in Illinois Unites for Marriage, and is grateful for the groups that led the effort on the ground — the ACLU, Equality Illinois, and Lambda Legal. We also deeply appreciate the leadership of lead bill sponsors in the House and Senate, Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans. Make no mistake, we will fight and make our case until all Illinois families have the freedom to marry the person they love and until the legislative vote reflects the solid majority of Illinoisans and Americans who stand for treating their neighbors the way they want to be treated."

Statement of John Knight, Director, LGBT Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois released the following statement:

We are disappointed that the Illinois House failed to act on Senate Bill 10, approving the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples across the State. We are most distressed for the thousands of couples across the State whose lives and families deserve the dignity and recognition of marriage. We will continue to speak with legislators about the vital need to extend the freedom to marry for these couples. Our litigation filed a year ago this week also continues.

We had hoped that Illinois would become the 13th state to approve the freedom to marry today. It did not happen, but we will wake up tomorrow prepared to continue the fight for fairness and equality in Illinois. This effort has been advanced by hundreds of volunteers and advocates. We are confident it will move forward to success.

Compiled from news releases

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