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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 10, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 06
Illinois lawmakers introduce marriage equality bill
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Illinois lawmakers introduce marriage equality bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Illinois became the fourth state to have marriage equality legislation under consideration this year when three state representatives introduced a marriage bill on February 8.

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, provides that 'all laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children; parties to a marriage and their children, regardless of whether the marriage is of a same-sex or different-sex couple, have the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.'

'I do not delude myself into thinking this will be an easy process,' Rep. Greg Harris, one of the sponsors of the bill, told Chicago's Windy City Times in a January interview.

'But we need to take the first step.'

Harris' sentiment was echoed by Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov.

'We commend these leaders for taking yet another step toward full equality for Lesbian and Gay families in Illinois, and we are grateful to them for their leadership,' Cherkasov said.

'This is just the beginning. The road to marriage equality is sure to be long, but it is one that we must travel together.'

Harris was the sponsor of Illinois' civil unions law, passed in January 2011. It provides many of the same protections afforded married couples. According to Equality Illinois, more than 3,700 Illinois couples have applied for civil union licenses over the last six months.

The Windy City Times reported in January that Harris, Deb Mell, Kelly Cassidy - the three sponsors - and other state lawmakers were in preliminary talks with pro-equality groups including Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal, and The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) to bring full marriage equality to Illinois as early as 2013.

'Over the past year, we confirmed what we always suspected to be true: that creating a separate institution to provide substantially the same rights did not add up to full equality under the law,' Cherkasov said in a statement.

'Separate is not equal. And we at Equality Illinois will not rest until Gay and Lesbian couples in every corner of the state - who are equal in love - are also equal in marriage.'

'We at TCRA supported the Civil Union bill as an initial step to providing rights and benefits to same-sex couples, but separate is never equal,' Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, agreed.

Democrats control both houses of the Illinois legislature, with a 64-54 majority in the House and a 35-24 majority in the Senate. Most Illinois legislators are still uncommitted on the issue of marriage equality, however.

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