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State

Gay marriage opponents invoke God, free speech

SPRINGFIELD – Busloads of gay marriage opponents held their own rally outside the Capitol Wednesday, pledging to reverse any headway in the push for state legislation that would allow same-sex weddings.

Pastors, Christian activists and others addressed a crowd clustered on the first floor of the Capitol rotunda, some peering down from the second and third floor rails, a day after gay marriage proponents held their own event to urge lawmakers to approve it.

“Are we going to stay silent and let this happen?” Christian activist Jim Finnegan asked the crowd.

“Defend Marriage Lobby Day” – sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute began Wednesday with a morning prayer service outside the state Capitol. The secretary of state’s police put the number of attendees at 2,500 – slightly smaller than the estimate from Tuesday’s event.

Attendees began the day outside with a prayer service in front of 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 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.

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.

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

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said just weeks ago that about a dozen votes were still needed for the legislation’s passage. However, gay rights activist Rick Garcia said Tuesday that the current count of “yes” votes was around 55 – progress that Wednesday’s rally attendees pledged to work to erode.

“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.”

Tuesday’s marriage equality rally was kicked off by a host of top state Democratic state officials along with Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Two Republican senators took to 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 announced 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.”

On Tuesday, the Diocese head, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, barred any pro-gay marriage activists wearing rainbow sashes from attending a Mass. Kemme called Springfield a “fearless defender of the traditional definition of marriage.”

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 adjourned for the week Wednesday afternoon.

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