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posted: 6/19/2013 11:10 AM

Editorial: Marriage equality still right for Illinois

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

As Illinois legislators gather again today to try to figure out what to do about the state's pension crisis, we're reminded of yet another issue they failed to resolve last month: marriage equality.

On the last day of the session on May 31, it seemed Illinois was ready to join 12 other states to adopt same-sex marriage. All signs pointed to a House vote; gay couples were even invited to be in the House gallery to watch the historic proceedings. The Senate had already approved the measure and the governor was ready to sign it into law once it got to his desk.

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It never made it. Never even got to a vote. The House sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, announced he would not call the bill for a vote because he did not have the votes for passage. That's just not acceptable.

"I apologize to the families who were hoping to wake up tomorrow as full and equal citizens of this state," Harris said. Instead, he promises to try again in November.

That's certainly ample time for legislators still too wary of the issue to make up their minds or too afraid to do what they know or should know is right. And advocates in the suburbs need to let their legislators know where they stand.

Those undecided should look to several suburban legislators -- including some Republicans -- who have been courageous enough to publicly support marriage equality by following their conscience -- even if it means a tough political fight in 2014.

"If our party ever wants to get out of the 1950s, we need a bigger tent," state Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, said last week while assessing the tough fight he expects to face next year because of his support of same-sex marriage. He made that declaration in April along with state Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican.

"How can we deny these basic rights to our friends and colleagues?" Sullivan asked.

That's the kind of leadership we need in Springfield on this issue. And it needs to come from both sides of the aisle.

"I think it's absolutely appalling that certain members of this body are willing to put their re-election interest in front of all interests of the families of the state," said state Rep. Sam Yingling, a Round Lake Beach Democrat and an openly gay lawmaker.

It's apparent there wasn't enough support from Democrats -- who hold a 71 to 47 advantage -- for this to even get to a vote. That's why House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn need to do more to convince rank-and-file Democrats.

Of course, it's possible that the U.S. Supreme Court may help decide this for those legislators worried about their political futures. Decisions on two marriage equality cases could come as early as tomorrow. Since our legislators have failed so far, it now falls to the jurists on the high court to be the courageous ones and set the country on the right course toward marriage equality.

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