Illinois is set to become the 15th state in the nation to provide same-sex couples the freedom to marry.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House of Representatives voted 61-54 to approve the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, affirming the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in the state. The bill passed the state Senate in February and will soon go to Governor Pat Quinn, who has expressed strong support for marriage and will sign it into law.
“It’s a fabulous day for Illinois! The Illinois House of Representatives finally made legal what the majority of Illinoisans have long understood–that love is love and all families deserve to be treated as equal under the law,” said Jim Bennett, Midwest Regional Director of Lambda Legal. “Same-sex couples and their children can celebrate a new era of equality in the Land of Lincoln. With the 5th most populous state in the union embracing the freedom to marry, we have moved much closer to bringing equality to all Americans. This victory will be a catalyst in our ongoing efforts to achieve full equality across all fifty states.”
“This was an enormous group effort and along with the leadership from the House, Senate and Governor’s office we’d like to thank our colleagues at the ACLU of Illinois, Equality Illinois, all of the members of the Illinois Unites for Marriage campaign and advocates from across the state who called, wrote letters and made visits to their elected officials,” added Bennett.
“Today’s vote by the Illinois House means the Land of Lincoln will be our nation’s 15th freedom to marry state. This is great news for the thousands of committed same-sex couples in Illinois who will now be able to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family, protected and supported by their marriage,” said Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, Marc Solomon.
President Barack Obama released a statement following the passage of marriage equality in Illinois. It read:
Tonight, I applaud the men and women of the Illinois General Assembly, a body in which I was proud to serve, for voting to legalize marriage equality in my home state.
As President, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law. Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else. So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours – and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.
I also commend the members of the General Assembly for approaching this issue in a fair and open way, and for recognizing the importance of our commitment to religious freedom by engaging the religious community in this conversation. Throughout this debate, they’ve made it clear that this is about civil marriages and civil laws, and made sure that churches and other institutions of faith are still free to make their own decisions that conform to their own teachings.
As I said in my Inaugural Address last January, our journey as a nation is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. And tonight, I’m so proud that the men and women elected to serve the people of the great state of Illinois have chosen to take us one step further on that journey to perfect our union.
The National Equality Action Team (NEAT), a project chaired by Marriage Equality USA, provided support to Illinois Unites for Marriage. In the spring of 2013, NEAT volunteers in New York City and across the country had 1812 conversations with constituents in Illinois. This fall they had an additional 1900 conversations with Illinois voters which resulted in 700 calls to undecided Illinois representatives.
“I am so proud of the work MEUSA and our partners in the Illinois coalition accomplished! The dedication this summer to redoubling efforts, reevaluating strategy, and expanding our work has paid off for thousands of LGBT families in the Land of Lincoln,” stated MEUSA Executive Director Brian Silva.
Among the active members of the NEAT Illinois campaign were the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Triangle, North Carolina chapter of the Human Rights Campaign.
NOW Action Vice President Bonnie Grabenhofer reported, “With training and support provided by Marriage Equality USA, NOW members from all over the country were able to have conversations with Illinois voters in the districts of undecided representatives. Those Illinois voters then left messages for their representatives urging them to support the marriage equality bill.”
NEAT held phone banks for Illinois Unites for Marriage in 27 different locations. Physical phone banks for Illinois were held in 3 states and remote phone banking was done from the homes of people in 18 different states. Key leaders in the Triangle (NC) Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) set up an in-person phone bank in Raleigh with MEUSA’s assistance.
Carson Fernandez, Triangle Chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, added, “Although North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibits our state from recognizing any kind of union other than heterosexual marriage, many of us doubled our efforts to help Illinois win the freedom to marry.”
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