Same-sex marriage bill a non-vote in Illinois House

Lisa Misner Sergent —  June 1, 2013

Could be called during summer or fall legislative sessions

NEWS | Lisa Sergent Same-sex marriage supporters filled the Illinois House gallery Friday night for an anticipated vote on SB10, the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.”

Rep. Greg Harris was the lone legislator on the floor before Friday's session began. Harris, who is gay and living with HIV, is the same-sex marriage bill's House sponsor.

Rep. Greg Harris was the lone legislator on the floor before Friday’s session began. Harris, who is gay, is the same-sex marriage bill’s chief sponsor in the House.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), had told the Windy City Times he would “absolutely” call the bill to a vote before session ended May 31 and that it would pass. “When I put it up on the board, it’s going up to win,” he said.

Instead, an emotional Harris addressed the House chamber. “As chief sponsor of this legislation, decisions surrounding the legislation are mine and mine alone. Several of my colleagues have indicated they’d not be willing to cast a vote on this bill today.

“And I’ve never been sadder to accept this request, but I have to keep my eye, as we all must, on the ultimate prize. They’ve asked for time to go back to their districts, talk to their constituents and reach out to their minds and hearts and have told me they’ll return in November with their word that they’re prepared to support this legislation.”

The General Assembly will meet in Springfield in November for the fall veto session, where the bill could come up again. The Illinois Observer reported it could also be an issue this summer, due to a last-minute move by House Speaker Mike Madigan. The Speaker extended the bill’s deadline for approval to August 31, meaning it could be up for discussion if a special summer legislative session is called.

“A deadline extension by itself resolves none of the political problems associated with the bill’s opponents, but it may give advocates an incentive to work to resolve them before summer’s end,” the online paper reported. Read that story here.

Pastor Danny Holliday has been an active voice against same-sex marriage at the Capitol. Holliday, who leads Victory Baptist Church in Alton, prayed during a rally organized by the Illinois Family Institute in the Capitol rotunda Friday.

Pastor Danny Holliday has been an active voice against same-sex marriage at the Capitol. Holliday, who leads Victory Baptist Church in Alton, prayed during a rally organized by the Illinois Family Institute in the Capitol rotunda Friday.

On Friday, shouts of “Shame!” and “Justice delayed is justice denied” could be heard from the disappointed and angry gallery.

For months, Christians of different denominations, from all walks of life and different races, had banded together to stop what many believed was inevitable when the Senate approved the bill February 14. Then, the momentum seemed to be moving in a direction that would make Illinois the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

But throughout the spring, religious and conservative groups stood firm for a traditional definition of marriage. The Chicago area African American Clergy Coalition used automated phone calls to urge voters around the state to contact their local representatives and tell them to vote no.

Following the non-vote, Bishop Larry Trotter, co-chairman of the coalition, told WFLD TV Fox Chicago, “Today our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has won! We are so proud of the God fearing Black Caucus members who withstood the pressure of the LGBT forces.”

Sharee Langenstein, a lobbyist who has worked with conservative groups during the same-sex marriage debate in Illinois, told the Illinois Baptist, “The African American community is by and large socially conservative, and so it has been very important through this whole process, in fighting same-sex marriage, to make sure that we form alliances with our friends.

“And I think for too long we have unfortunately kind of assumed that the African American community, which does traditionally vote Democrat, would not be with us on some of our social issues. And we have all learned…that in fact we have a lot more in common than we ever thought, and God has really worked well through this whole process in helping us work together and form alliances that before we never had thought were possible.”

Southern Baptists in Illinois actively opposed the bill. IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams told the Illinois Baptist Friday night, “I was greatly encouraged by the majority of our state representatives who stood firm for traditional marriage today, in spite of tremendous political pressure. I believe the voices and prayers of Illinois Baptist churches and church members made a difference, and have helped defend churches and Christians throughout the state from pressures, requirements and litigation that would certainly have flowed from the proposed legislation, if it had passed.

“I’m sure the political pressure to pass same sex marriage legislation in Illinois will continue. But today helped demonstrate that it is not a fore drawn conclusion, and that the religious liberty implications tied to this issue are being increasingly recognized.”

Lisa Misner Sergent

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Lisa is IBSA Director of Communications. A Missouri native, she moved to Illinois 22 years ago and arrived at IBSA a few years later.