Tuesday Briefing: Will Court’s rulings on marriage affect debate in Illinois?

Meredith Flynn —  July 2, 2013

Marriage_mapTHE BRIEFING | Illinois Baptist staff

While bells were ringing at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decisions advancing same sex marriage, Christians elsewhere were lamenting the actions. And in Illinois, people on both sides of the issue were considering the impact of the high court’s rulings on the push to legalize same-sex marriage in our state.

The Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, effectively giving married same-sex couples financial benefits previously reserved for heterosexual couples. And the justices’ non-action on California’s Proposition 8 allows a lower court’s ruling against it to stand, meaning same-sex marriages could begin in the state very soon. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The rulings do not change the law in Illinois. But favorable response from the Court does signal renewed momentum in efforts to pass SB10, the state’s gay marriage bill, proponents say.

And those defending traditional marriage are taking the court’s actions as a call to redouble their efforts to stop same-sex marriage in Illinois.

“The ruling doesn’t change what’s required of us,” said Ron Knox, pastor of FBC Royalton, Ill. “We must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth. That’s what we’re called to do.”

A shift in momentum?

The Court’s rulings energized supporters of same-sex marriage in Illinois, who are still waiting for SB10 to be called for a vote in the State House.

“Today the Supreme Court took a historic step by providing equal access to more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement immediately after the court’s announcement. “Members of the Illinois House now have more than 1,100 new reasons to make marriage equality the law in Illinois.”

Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of SB10 in the Illinois Senate, also urged the Illinois House to pass SB10. “The time is right for Illinois to join the 13 other states (counting California) with equal marriage. When the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act becomes law, the legal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage under both state and federal law will apply to committed, same-sex Illinois couples. … Now it’s time for Illinois to take a stand for fairness.”

But even with the momentum, some opponents of same-sex marriage don’t believe the House will take up again as early as they could, during a special session called by Quinn to handle the state’s pension crisis. It is more likely the House would revisit the bill during the fall veto session, which begins Oct. 22. And because the bill wasn’t passed during the regular spring session, it would need a 3/5 majority, or 71 votes, to make it to Quinn’s desk this fall.

The African-American Clergy Coalition based in Chicago, a major force in slowing SB10’s momentum, showed no signs of giving up after the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The people of Illinois…still have the right to determine if gay marriage should become law…” the group said in a statement.

Marriage defenders continue to put their trust in God regarding SB10. “The victory we had in the spring was because churches prayed for God’s mercy and stood up and spoke out,” said David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. “We need to continue to be diligent in praying for and speaking to our elected officials.”

Some have expressed discouragement after the ruling. Smith understands, “It’s easy to get discouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling. We need to double our resolve and stand on faith. Churches need to teach why God designed the institution of marriage. It’s vitally important we stand by it.

David Howard, Capitol City Association director of missions, also remains hopeful. “There’s no question Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost and we need to that as well. We need to be salt to continue to preserve what is good, and light to illuminate what is bad. The light will overcome the darkness. Ultimately we will win.”

Reported by Lisa Sergent. Read more in the July 8 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online this Friday at ibonline.ibsa.org.

Other news:

Gay marriage support makes headlines
Leading up to the Supreme Court’s anticipated rulings on marriage, Pew Research found the majority of media coverage focused on support for same-sex marriage. Between March 18 and May 12, 47% of news stories focused on pro-same-sex marriage views, while 9% emphasized the opposite view. Pew found 44% of news stories were mixed or neutral. Read more at Pew’s website.

Producers plan The Bible, part 2
The team behind this spring’s “The Bible” miniseries have signed on to produce a sequel that will focus on what happened after Christ’s death. Spouses Mark Burnett and Roma Downey will produce the series, which has the working title “AD: Beyond the Bible,” for NBC. The network’s chairman of entertainment, Bob Greenblatt, said in a statement that after following the development of the original miniseries, he “knew that the story was far from over after Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, what happened in the aftermath – which is essentially the beginning of Christianity – is utterly fascinating.” Read the full Associated Press story at Yahoo.com.

Ministers bring peace to trial
A ministerial alliance in Sanford, Fla., is tackling the challenge of keeping peace in their community in the midst of a controversial court case, CNN reports. “Sanford Pastors Connecting” rotates religious leaders in and out of the courtroom during the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin.  The pastors have a “ministry of presence” in the courtroom, and are charged with reporting developments to the crowds outside and to their congregations.

“Regardless of what the verdict is, we can avoid the violence,” Rev. Robert K. Gregory Jr., of the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry in Sanford, told CNN. “If we work together, trust can be built.” Read more at CNN’s Belief blog. 

Wallenda prays during long walk
Viewers tuning in to watch Nik Wallenda’s death-defying tightrope walk across a gorge near the Grand Canyon likely heard him praying aloud throughout much of the stunt. Before the walk, Wallenda told The Christian Post he often prays while on the wire. “I find that peaceful and relaxing and He’s the only one up there listening to me.” Read more at The Christian Post.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.