State Government

Could gay marriage come to Illinois?

Gay-rights advocates hope that an Election Day sweep of ballot measures approving same-sex marriage will give Illinois a boost to pass similar legislation here.

Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, ending a 32-state losing streak dating to 1998, in which gay marriage had been rebuffed in every state where it went to voters. In Minnesota, voters rejected a proposal to place a ban on gay-marriage in the state constitution.

The three states join six others and the nation’s capital in legal recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages.

“I think [Election Day] showed that we’re gaining momentum,” said Toni Weaver, a McHenry resident and president of the PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois. “The more states that have marriage equality on the books, the easier it will be to make a case for overturning DOMA,” she said, referring to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Advocates say those victories Nov. 6 signal a changing tide.

The outcome of the recent marriage votes also could influence the U.S. Supreme Court, which soon will consider whether to take up cases challenging the law that denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages. The gay-rights successes come on the heels of numerous national polls that, for the first time, show a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

Political experts say that younger voters are responsible for the shift. Younger voters tend to be more accepting of alternative points of view and are replacing older voters.

But Weaver said it’s because the issue has a familiar face.

“I believe more and more LGBT people are coming out,” she said. “... As more and more people come to realize that they’ve been rubbing elbows with gay people in every profession for years ... [they will] say, ‘These are good people. These are human beings, and they’re not people who deserve to be vilified.’SNbS”

State Sen. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, hopes to get enough support for his Religious Freedom and Marriage Act to call it for a vote in early 2013. Under Harris’ HB 5170, the same marriage rights provided to heterosexual couples would be afforded to same-sex couples.

Harris, who is openly gay, was a key architect in the Civil Unions Act signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in early 2011.

Though she lauded Springfield’s nod for gay couples with the Civil Unions Act, Weaver said it doesn’t go far enough.

“Separate is not equal,” she said. “I have three sons. In the state of Illinois, two of them can choose if they wish to enter into a civil union or marriage. My other son has but one choice.”

Crystal Lake state Rep. Mike Tryon voted against civil unions and said he would do so again.

“To put a bill up in lame-duck session and ram it through by taking advantage of people leaving ... is a mistake,” the Republican said. “Something that has this much impact and interest should have a full debate in the General Assembly with the proper time to [hear from constituents].”

As vocal opponents of same-sex marriage, Catholic leaders are preparing for four more years of an administration that many of them view as a threat to the church.

“Regardless of what measures are put on any ballot and regardless of what the outcome may be, our faith cannot negotiate what is written in our human nature or in the words of Christ himself,” Rockford Bishop David Malloy wrote in an email to the Northwest Herald.

Catholic teaching holds that homosexuals should be respected and treated with dignity but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

“Marriage for people of faith is not simply a legality. It’s a sacrament and a grace which directly cooperates with God and our human nature,” Malloy said.

• The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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