Same-sex marriage supporters unite to ‘fight back’ after non-action in Illinois House

Meredith Flynn —  June 3, 2013

NEWS | When the General Assembly’s spring legislative session ended May 31 without a vote on same-sex marriage, opponents of the bill rejoiced.

“As Christians we know that all good things are gifts from God, and the retention of sexual complementarity in the government’s definition of marriage is a very good thing,” the Illinois Family Institute posted on its website. IFI was one of several conservative and religious groups that worked together to stand against the legislation.

Same-sex marriage supporters, some wearing "ILove" T-shirts, gathered in the Capitol's rotunda in anticipation of a vote Friday, May 31.

Same-sex marriage supporters, some wearing “ILove” T-shirts, gathered in the Capitol’s rotunda in anticipation of a vote Friday, May 31.

Supporters of same-sex marriage also were vocal over the weekend in their response to Rep. Greg Harris’ decision not to call the bill for a vote. Harris, sponsor of the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” has faced harsh criticism from those who wanted to see it passed.

The Windy City Times, a Chicago newspaper which advocates for LGBT rights, said in a Saturday morning editorial, “The marriage equality non-vote in the Illinois House May 31 is a historic failure with plenty of blame to hand out.” The writer of editorial blamed a host of people and organizations, including Harris. Later, the paper and the representative issued a joint statement calling on the LGBT community to come together.

“We must unite fiercely as a community and focus our efforts on carrying the beacon of hope and equality for all families, and against those who wish to defeat the full promise of America for all her peoples.”

Echoing that theme, gay rights organization Equality Illinois posted a new banner on its Facebook page: “Fight back, Illinois!” Legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois “isn’t a matter of if – it’s a matter of when,” read a post on the page.

Illinois Family Institute Executive Director David Smith prays during a rally for traditional marriage supporters.

Illinois Family Institute Executive Director David Smith prays during a rally for traditional marriage supporters.

According to an article in the Illinois Observer, House Speaker Mike Madigan extended the bill’s extend its deadline for approval to August 31, meaning it could be brought back for a vote if the legislature meets over the summer. During his speech in the House chamber Friday, Harris said some representatives, whom he declined to name, wanted to go back and talk with their constituents before bringing the marriage bill back to the table during the fall veto session, which begins October 22.

In the meantime, all eyes will be watching closely to see how members of the House Black Caucus, believed to be swing votes in the debate, will withstand the pressure. In the days leading up to the non-vote, African American pastors were considered a key part of the stand against same-sex marriage. If their alliance with downstate conservatives holds up over the summer, Harris’ bill could face another tough legislative season.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.