‘Robocalls’ and protests keep marriage debate going in Illinois

Meredith Flynn —  May 14, 2013

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Lisa Sergent and Meredith Flynn

Exactly three months ago, the Illinois Senate passed the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act.” On February 14, the state seemed poised to become the tenth to legalize same-sex marriage. But today, the bill is still awaiting a vote on the Illinois House floor.

The hold-up could be due in part to the efforts of religious leaders and groups like the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), who have made known their opposition to the bill. IFI has organized recent rallies in front of the offices of state representatives, and a coalition of African-American pastors in the Chicago area are using automated phone calls to urge voters around the state to contact their local representatives and tell them to vote no. The calls are voiced by Rev. James Meeks, a former state representative and influential Chicago area pastor. In the calls he states, “In my view, same-sex marriage should not be the law of the state of Illinois.”

Reports in March and April indicated the bill was as many as 12 “yes” votes short. But Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s sponsor, told Chicago’s ABC News last week that proponents of same-sex marriage are “very close” to passing the legislation.  According to a Sunday Chicago Tribune editorial, “Harris needs 60 votes, and we’re told he’s a mere three to five short, with plenty of fence-sitters.”

Governor Pat Quinn has expressed his impatience with the House’s failure to vote on the bill. “It’s time to vote,” he said last week. “Illinois passing marriage equality in to law, I think, sends a great signal to the people of our state and the people of America. So it’s important to Illinois (that) the House of Representatives get going.”

The Illinois General Assembly’s session ends May 31.

Just last week, legislators in Rhode Island and Delaware voted to legalize same-sex marriage in their states, and yesterday, Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor Mark Dayton is expected to sign the bill into law today.

Other news:

Bill would change state’s abstinence-focused curriculum
A bill that would change sex education curriculum in Illinois is awaiting a vote by the Senate. Heather Steans, a Democratic Senator from Chicago, is sponsoring the bill that would replace the state’s abstinence-based model of sex-ed with curriculum that would also emphasize contraception and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. Opponents, including the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), say the legislation would subject young children to “graphic sexual information to which most parents would find highly objectionable and inappropriate.” According to an IFI press release, “If the ‘comprehensive’ sex education bill, HB 2675, is passed, it will establish a one-size-fits-all approach to sex education and remove local community control over choosing true ‘age- appropriate’ curriculum, another term used in the bill.” Read a Chicago Tribune story about the issue here, or visit the Illinois Family Institute’s website.

After guilty verdict, Gosnell could face death penalty
Notorious abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first degree murder Monday, and could face the death penalty. Gosnell, 72, was charged with ending the lives of babies born alive at his Philadelphia clinic. He also was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar. During the trial, pro-life advocates waged a “Tweet Fest” to raise awareness about the charges against Gosnell, which had gone unmentioned by most mainstream media outlets. Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Politics plays a role in pastors’ environmental views
Pastors’ views on the environment are largely linked to the political party they identify with, according to a new study by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found 43% agree with the statement, “I believe global warming is real and man made,” while 54% disagree. But the numbers are more extreme along political party lines: 76% of pastors that are Democrats strongly agree with the validity of man-made global warming, but only 7% of pastors identifying as Republicans express the same belief. Pastors also weighed in on whether their churches are actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint; read more at LifeWayResearch.com.

Barna study explores mass exodus of Millenials from the church
Barna’s extensive research on the Millenial generation has resulted in some alarming statistics, like the fact that 43% of church-going Millenials drop out of church sometime between high school and turning 30. The research also generated some interesting distinguishing characteristics of these “spiritually homeless youth.” Read about Barna’s three categories for Millenials who have left the church – nomads, prodigals, and exiles – at Barna.org.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.