State

Gay marriage opponents invoke God, free speech

SPRINGFIELD – Opponents of legislation to legalize gay marriage in Illinois rallied Wednesday outside the state Capitol, one day after thousands held their own event to urge lawmakers to approve it.

"Defend Marriage Lobby Day" sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute began Wednesday with a morning prayer service outside the state Capitol. Although the crowd was smaller than Tuesday's, hundreds clustered around the Lincoln statute, in front of which a large wooden cross printed with "God Abhors Civil Unions" had been placed.

Some attendees carried pictures of the Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and posters emphasizing their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"Kids do better with a mom and a dad," one sign read.

"Are we going to stay silent and let this happen?" Christian activist Jim Finnegan asked the hundreds that had clustered inside the first floor Capitol rotunda, with more peering down from the second and third floor rails.

Pastors from several of the area's black mega-churches are trying to help blunt gay marriage advocates' work to clinch a handful more "yes" votes to secure passage of the measure in the House. Activists are targeting moderate Republicans as well as socially conservative members of the largely Democratic House Black Caucus to get to the 60 votes needed.

"If we don't stand for something, we'll fall for anything," Larry Trotter, pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church in Chicago said, calling the "righteous to report for duty."

While Tuesday's marriage equality was kicked off by a host of top state officials – including Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka – only two state senators took the podium Wednesday.

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, one of four GOP primary candidates for governor, cracked that if he were governor, such a rally might not have to be held. Dillard called the measure a violation of First Amendment rights, and pledged to veto any gay marriage legislation that might come across his desk.

Fellow Republican Sen. Jim Oberweis, who told the crowd he's gathering petition signatures for a U.S. Senate run against Durbin, reminded the group he'd long been an opponent of gay marriage.

Monsignor Carl Kemme of Springfield's Catholic Diocese called marriage "God's design, not man's."

Same-sex marriage legislation passed the state Senate in February but has not been called in the House.

Illinois allowed civil unions in 2011 – a measure passed by a lame-duck Legislature following the November 2010 election. There are now 14 states, plus Washington D.C., that allow gay marriage.

The Legislature's second day of its annual fall session will also include a hearing on gambling, where racetrack officials and horsemen will advocate for the legislature to extend an online betting law set to expire in January. State Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat, will reintroduce a larger gambling package at the hearing as well.

Both chambers are expected to adjourn for the week this evening.

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