Illinois Moving Toward Marriage Equality

The news has been flooded with information about the same-sex marriage debate now that nine states (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Iowa, Washington) and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage; three by popular vote in the 2012 election (Maine, Maryland, and Washington). The coverage is further fueled because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on this civil rights issue. In one case, they may rule about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman at the federal level. In the second case, they will decide if the 9th U.S Circuit Court’s ruling to strike down Proposition 8, an initiative that repealed same-sex marriage in California after it had been legalized because of a popular vote to ban same-sex marriage, is just. Analysts anticipate both cases to be resolved by late June 2013.

Governor Pat Quinn is using this momentum to progress Illinois toward marriage equality at the state level. In 2011, under his leadership, Illinois legalized civil unions and purported that citizens bound by civil union would have the same rights as married couples in Illinois; however, a comprehensive study spearheaded by Equality Illinois revealed that the significant inequalities continue to persist. Since the legalization of civil unions, Governor Quinn has come out in support of full marriage equality. Now, he is hoping that lawmakers will present a bill that would enable legislation to pass that would grant state-level marriage equity to lesbian and gay couples. Nonetheless, Representative Greg Harris, lead sponsor, wants to ensure that the same-sex marriage bill would have the support it needs to pass before submitting it. Harris argues, “We can see the trend of public opinion having shifted dramatically…but it takes time for legislators to figure that out” (qtd. in Garcia, Chicago Tribune, Dec 11, 2012). While politicians continue to work toward equality, the queer, transgender, gay, bisexual and lesbian therapist community in Chicago is pleased with the movement toward equality because full marriage equity is a basic civil right.

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