Illinois, Rhode Island poised for marriage votes this month

Teresa Paiva Weed

The race to become the tenth state to provide for marriage equality just got more interesting, as both Illinois and Rhode Island legislatures are on track to take final votes this month.

In a surprise development, Rhode Island Senate President Teresa Weed acknowledged to a Providence Journal reporter Sunday that she would allow a floor vote on the marriage equality bill by the end of the month. Weed, who is opposed to the bill, had previously promised only to allow a Senate committee vote if the bill passed the House. The marriage equality bill passed the Rhode Island House in January on a 51 to 19 vote.

Weed press spokesman Greg Pare confirmed Tuesday that Weed plans to bring the bill to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee soon after the legislature returns from its spring break next week. He said Weed also committed to allow a floor vote a “couple of days after that,” before the end of this month.

Meanwhile, the Illinois House is also looking at the real possibility of taking its historic vote on marriage equality this month. The Senate passed the legislation in February on a 34 to 21 vote.

As of Tuesday (April 9), Equality Illinois leader Bernard Cherkasov said he didn’t have a timeline for when the House vote might happen, but added, “I do feel confident that the marriage bill will pass with strong, bipartisan support.”

The Illinois House has 118 members, 71 Democrat and 47 Republican. The bill needs 60 votes to pass. Associated Press said Democratic Governor Pat Quinn told reporters Monday (April 8) that supporters of the legislation are “very close” to getting the votes they need.

Both Quinn and Rhode Island’s independent Governor Lincoln Chafee have said they will sign the marriage equality legislation. While either state would represent another success for LGBT civil rights supporters, passage in Illinois would put the nation’s fifth most populous state in the victory column. That would make Illinois the second most populous of the marriage equality states, behind New York. It would also mean that 15 percent of the U.S. population would be living in states where same-sex couples are allowed to marry. If Rhode Island and California come onboard this year –as they could (California through a U.S. Supreme Court decision) —that figure would jump to nearly one-third of the population.

The Illinois legislature has been in recess for the past several weeks and reconvened Monday (April 8), but both supporters and opponents of marriage equality have been busy during recess.

Several local websites have reported escalating use of robo-calls by opponents of allowing gays to marry. One Chicago neighborhood website,, said constituents of at least one House legislator were receiving robo-calls saying that same-sex marriage “denies children the right to know who their real parent it.” The website said the recording was produced by Family-PAC. An earlier robo-call message said “homosexual activists” were demanding marriage regardless of its consequences, adding, “Children are not playthings or social experiments.” It was recorded by a local conservative talk show host, Sandy Rios.

But there have been high-profile supporters, too. National civil rights leader Julian Bond issued a statement in support of Illinois marriage equality last week. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp, Hyatt Hotels Corporation President Mark Hoplamazian, Latino Policy Forum Executive Director Maria Pesqueira, and the two local daily newspapers are also supporting marriage equality.

And Windy City Times reported that four well-known local sports stars sent a letter to House members urging their support for marriage equality. They included Chicago Cubs’ Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks and three former players with the Chicago Bears football team. One of them, Brendon Ayanbandelo, now plays for the Super Bowl Championship team the Baltimore Ravens. He spoke out in support of marriage equality in Maryland, too.

Even the head of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady, announced support for the bill. That move, in January, put him at odds with many in his party –so much so, the state party held a caucus March 8 to consider ousting him from his position as chairman of the state party. But The Chicago Tribune reported that the meeting was later cancelled when opponents failed to identify enough votes (60 percent of the membership) to replace Brady. The Tribune said the National Organization for Marriage organized a form-letter campaign directed at party members against Brady. The Chicago Sun Times reported that U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) were among the Republican leaders in the state who lobbied for Brady’s retention.

Brady’s support has been joined recently by two Republican members of the House –one Republican leader, Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein, and Rep. Ron Sandack of a Chicago suburb.

Mundelein told Associated Press that his mother-in-law is gay and that has given him a “more familiar and fair understanding of people who are in same-sex relationships.”

Meanwhile, the Santa Fe Mayor David Coss submitted a resolution to the City Council March 27, seeking declaration that same-sex couples have a right to obtain marriage licenses in New Mexico. The Council is expected to vote April 24. Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown announced April 5 that petitioners have until July 3, 2014 to gather the more 116,000 signatures needed.

One Response to Illinois, Rhode Island poised for marriage votes this month

  1. Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui says:

    Here are two truths regarding marriage: (1) A man creating a family with another man is not equal to creating a family with a woman, and (2) denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both…

    At school, those kids who have two mothers or two fathers will be different, and the other children will notice that the child of a same-sex couple is different in many ways. Besides the obvious exclusion of either a mother or a father at home, a same-sex-marriage child is deprived of one necessary gender role model at home, and will undoubtedly interact differently than other children of his/her gender, and especially with regards to interacting with the opposite sex of his/her same-sex parents. It is without a doubt that these children will be recognized to be different by the children who have a mother and a father at home, and especially when they have both of their biological parents at home…

    In order to protect the child of a same-sex marriage from any perceived harassment, that child will become a special protected class in the eyes of the government. School officials will have to punish and “re-educate” any child who “offends” the protected-class child by simply expressing that it seems strange that the child of the same-sex marriage is missing a mother or a father, or that the child acts in a manner unusual to his gender contemporaries.

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