by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
On May 31 the Illinois House of Representatives adjourned without taking action on a pending marriage equality bill. The state Senate had already passed the measure, and Gov. Pat Quinn had promised to sign it into law if the House passed it.
House Speaker Michael Madigan told the Chicago Tribune on March 13 that he was 12 votes short of the number needed to pass the bill, but since then equality supporters repeatedly said the votes were there - and Madigan invited LGBT activists to attend the final May 31 session in expectation that the measure would pass before the legislature adjourned.
However, at the last minute the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, withdrew it, saying he had to put off the vote until November.
ANGER AND ACCUSATIONS
Activists promptly denounced Harris's action. Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive of Equality Illinois, called the turn of events 'disgraceful.'
'After an overwhelming victory in the Senate, today's failure by the Illinois House is a disgrace,' Freedom to Marry said in a statement, 'especially for the thousands of committed same-sex couples who want and deserve to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family and spend the rest of their lives with the person they love, protected and supported by their marriage.'
'This is a stunning failure in the Illinois House,' Lambda Legal declared. 'This is too important to families across Illinois, and Lambda Legal's lawsuit, Darby v. Orr, which was filed a year ago yesterday, will move forward & however, it's unacceptable that our community did not at least get the vote Rep. Harris promised on the House floor. We have a right to know where our elected officials stand on the fundamental right to marry the person you love. We will continue to work with them to push toward passing this critical law as soon as possible.'
Chicago activist Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, blamed Democratic Party leaders in the Illinois House for the failure.
'House Speaker Mike Madigan, the de facto leader of the Illinois Democratic Party, is responsible for this abject betrayal,' Thayer said. 'Anyone who knows anything about Illinois politics knows that Speaker Mike Madigan owns the House - if he had insisted on a positive vote from his caucus, it would have passed.'
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, however, the marriage bill was sidetracked by heavy pressure put on the 20-member House Black Caucus by conservative pastors from their districts.
Meanwhile 15 Democratic House members and one senator publicly apologized for the legislature's failure to pass the marriage bill and pleaded for unity among equality supporters.
'Like you, we are incredibly disappointed about what happened Friday in Springfield,' they wrote.
'But let's not forget something very important: Marriage equality is going to happen. As a community, we must come together, assess our strategy, and redouble our efforts in the fight for fundamental fairness.
'This is not the time for us to splinter,' the legislators warned, 'for that is exactly what our opponents want. The more united we are in the coming days and weeks, the sooner the bill will get passed - and the sooner our dream of full equality will become a reality.'
Before final adjournment on May 31, Madigan extended the deadline for passage of the marriage bill to August 31, so in the event that Gov. Quinn calls the legislature back into special session - which he might do to deal with pension reform proposals - marriage could be taken up as well.
That would require the governor to include marriage in his call for the special session, but if he failed to do so, Madigan could call a special session of his own - at the same time as the governor's special session - to take up the legislation.
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