— By Stephen Richer
Things are heating up on the marriage front here in Chicago (my current home base). On Tuesday, 3,000 activists hit the streets of Springfield to urge the Illinois House to pass a gay marriage bill. The next day, 2,500 opponents of marriage equality marched on the same streets.
These two marches were supposed to be perfectly timed — commentators predicted that the Illinois House would vote on SB10 (“The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act”) during the week of November 4. But now it’s not so sure. Supporters of the bill are torn over whether to push the vote ahead (damn the torpedoes) or to wait until the votes are definitely there. The Chicago Tribune reports:
The situation has created a sharp divide among advocates who are split on how sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris should proceed. On one side are those demanding that Harris call the bill even if the support isn’t there, arguing that lawmakers should be held accountable while also making it clear who should be targeted as potential backers. On the other side are those who contend that pragmatic politics should not be ignored, contending a failed vote would set back efforts to get the bill passed and send a bad message.
The tension was on display through the day, as some in the crowd shouted “Call the vote” while Harris spoke. Others took to the stage in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln’s statue to declare they were prepared to vote out of office lawmakers who got in the way — including Harris.
The bill has already passed the Senate. And Governor Pat Quinn has said he will sign the bill when it is passed, during the veto session or during the new term in January. 71 votes are needed to pass the bill during the veto session; only 60 are needed in January; or the bill can be passed now with 60 votes if set to start at a later date. The Illinois House is made up of 118 members — currently there are 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans.
With 71 Democrats you’d think things would be great for marriage equality (but terrible for economic freedom or economic equality). But Democrats aren’t as united in support of marriage equality as the progressive left pretends. Democrats from rural Illinois, and Democrats in the House Legislative Black Caucus are particularly unlikely to support marriage equality. Leaders of black churches loudly oppose marriage equality, and it has had its impact in recent weeks.
So that’s where Republicans fit in. We’re needed. So far, only two Illinois House Republicans have publicly voiced support for marriage equality: Ed Sullivan and Ron Sandack. Strategists say there are other possibilities, but nothing is certain yet. One problem these strategists cite is that the filing deadline for reelection is only weeks away, and some Republican politicians aren’t too keen about having a “yes” vote for gay marriage be toward the top of their recent actions.
To make the bill a little more tempting to Republican representatives, broad religious protection language has been included. Example:
No church, mosque, synagogue, temple, nondenominational ministry, interdenominational or ecumenical organization, mission organization, or other organization whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion is required to provide religious facilities for the solemnization ceremony or celebration associated with the solemnization ceremony of a marriage if the solemnization ceremony or celebration associated with the solemnization ceremony is in violation of its religious beliefs.
This religious protection strategy worked well in Minnesota, and it is also a key selling point for pitching the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to Republicans In order to make the bill more appealing to Republicans, broad religious protections have been put in place. This will hopefully go some distance in preventing gay marriage from being rammed down the throats of non-supporters (although there are other problems with this). But it obviously won’t address the concerns of religious fundamentalist (largely Republicans) who think that even if the proximity of the gay marriage has individually hurtful effects.
I guess we’ll wait and see. Sure would be neat to have a few Republicans join the team that finally pushes this thing over the line in Illinois.