Proponents of a gay marriage bill said Wednesday they want to see the legislation addressed during the General Assembly’s veto session that begins next week.
However, they would not discuss specifics of how many votes they believe there are for the bill in the Illinois House after a summer-long effort to build support.
“We don’t comment publicly on roll call,” John Kohlhelpp, campaign manager for Illinois Unites for Marriage, told The State Journal-Register editorial board. “We take that from our sponsor [state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago]. He says we are within striking distance.”
Senate Bill 10 was previously approved by the Illinois Senate, but did not come to a vote on the House floor. On the last day of the spring session, Harris acknowledged that he didn’t have the votes needed and said he would not call the bill only to see it fail.
Instead, Harris said he would continue to work in the lead-up to the veto session, trying to secure enough votes to pass the bill.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, a gay member of the General Assembly and a co-sponsor of the bill, said that’s what she and other supporters have done.
“The lead sponsor and I, as well as others, have spent the summer having the conversations with our colleagues that they asked us to have when we delayed the bill in the spring, making our way around the state answering questions and providing support to help them get where they need to go,” Cassidy said. “I feel good about those conversations.”
Cassidy said it is imperative that Illinois legalize gay marriage “to address the harm that’s been done since we failed to pass in the spring and the world changed when the [federal] Defense of Marriage Act was struck down.”
She recalled a case in her district where one partner died and the other was unable to use federal family medical leave to care for him before his death.
“He was not able to grieve properly,” Cassidy said. “He lost his husband, and he lost his job because they were not able to get married. Civil union is not enough, and waiting is not an option.”
Nor is going out of state, said a same-sex couple who attended Wednesday’s meeting. Suzanna Hutton and Danielle Cook have been together for more than 10 years and have a 16-year-old son. They entered a civil union in 2011, but Hutton said it doesn’t go far enough, and that she and Cook agreed not to leave the state to get married.
“Everyone supports us as a couple and sees us as married, and we’re just waiting for the state of Illinois to catch up,” Hutton said. “I want it to be in the state of Illinois. All of our friends right now are going to Iowa. We were born here, our families are here, we want to have our wedding here. We want to get married in the state of Illinois. I don’t want that to be the plan that Illinois residents are advised to leave Illinois to get married.”
Cook said there are constant reminders that same-sex couples do not have the same rights as others. During a recent visit to a doctor’s office, she had a fill out a form where her choices were married, divorced or widowed.
“I can’t mark any of those. I can’t mark married because I’m not married, but I should be,” Cook said. “Just that daily reminder that we aren’t equal gets old. It would be a shame if we don’t get our civil rights due to political cowardice.”
“Many people have said I would love to vote for it, but it’s too hard a vote,” Cassidy added.
Gay marriage supporters plan a rally in Springfield on Tuesday, the first day lawmakers return for the veto session. Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to give remarks at the rally.
Opponents of gay marriage will hold their own rally at the Statehouse on Wednesday. The rally is being organized by the Illinois Family Institute.
“The purpose is to urge lawmakers not to redefine marriage for the sake of children,” said Kathy Valente, operations director for the Institute. “It is intended to not only energize our base, but also to send a clear message to the lawmakers that Illinois residents do not want marriage redefined.”
Valente said she doesn’t think the bill has enough votes to pass.
“They’re been told that if they vote in favor of this bill, they will not see another election,” she said.