Definition of marriage is a ‘waiting game’ in Illinois

Meredith Flynn —  May 30, 2013

COMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

wedding_bandsLegalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois has become a “wait and see” situation for people on both sides of the issue. What appeared to be speedy passage through General Assembly has stalled, as proponents of the legislation try to muster enough votes to get final approval in the State House. Whatever the outcome in a battle over this particular bill, it is important to note that changing the traditional definition of marriage in Illinois has not been swift, easy or unanimous.

Watching the February 14 passage of bill from the Senate gallery, where supporters of same-sex marriage outnumbered defenders of traditional marriage, it seemed likely that the House would pass the measure as quickly as the Senate had. But in the weeks and months since, objection from the grassroots has grown up and grown strong.

Southern Baptists, evangelical Christians, and Catholics have been especially vocal. Pastors and denominational leaders led the opposition to the same-sex marriage bill SB 10, officially titled the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” by its authors. Rep. Greg Harris, the main sponsor of the bill and the Illinois House’s first openly homosexual member, has stated he will not call the bill for a vote until he is certain he has the 60 votes needed for it to pass.

The House Executive Committee sent the bill to the House floor in March, but with the May 31 end of session deadline quickly approaching, there has still been no vote.

If proponents of the legislation were counting on public opinion to give it a final push through the House, they are likely disappointed by the effects of by protests by Christians. Some polls have shown public opinion shifting nationally, and in Illinois recent surveys show an even divide in public support for gay marriage. But conservative voices also are being heard, and conservative legislators are finding strong backing in their defense of traditional marriage.

Lawmakers who are holding out for “one-man/one-woman” are being subjected to strong lobbying from the other side, including automated phone calls and personal visits. Meantime, demonstrations for traditional marriage continue on the Capitol steps and in the public square, such as Chicago’s Logan Square and in downtown Alton.

And it continues to be a waiting game, as supporters of traditional marriage hope to hold off a vote on SB 10 until the 98th General Assembly ends. Round one ends next week, but with a procedural move, a second round could continue until January 2015.

Unless there is House action today or tomorrow, the question becomes, Will supporters of traditional marriage remain fervent in their efforts?

Lisa Sergent is communications director for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.