Editorial: It’s time for a vote on marriage equality in Illinois

“I’m willing to lose my job over this issue. But I won’t go down without a fight.”

The Illinois House needs more courageous talk like that from Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, who says that same-sex couples who want to marry deserve equality under the law.

Sullivan potentially is facing a primary battle next year because of his support for same-sex marriage in Illinois — support that has not yet resulted in a vote in the House. (The Senate approved its marriage equality bill on Valentine’s Day.)

And today, legislators come back into session following a tantalizing close call in the spring when at the last second sponsors of the marriage equality bill declined to call it for a vote in the House, because they didn’t have the required 60 votes for passage.

Promises were made then that a vote would happen during the fall veto session. And no matter which way it goes, it’s time for legislators to go on the record despite concerns about the political calendar. Legislators on both sides of the issue are concerned about potential opponents filing against them in the primary based on this vote. Much has changed, however, in the last few months.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and also paved the way for California to resume same-sex marriages. Four more states also now allow same-sex marriages — New Jersey became the latest on Monday, making it the 14th state to do so. A court ruling could come soon in New Mexico as well.

The tide clearly seems to be shifting. A poll in Illinois taken earlier this year showed 50 percent of those polled were in favor of gay marriage and only 29 percent opposed.

Those who believe civil unions are the same as marriage may be surprised to find out that only people legally married can enjoy federal benefits of marriage now that DOMA has been struck down.

This is not a new position for this newspaper. We wrote of our support of gay marriage in July 2012, believing then as now that “unless gay couples are allowed to marry, they always will be relegated to second-class citizenship, and that is not right.”

A year and half later, we’re still waiting for the Illinois House to agree. Or disagree. The chief sponsor of the bill said in May that many of his colleagues said they needed the summer to talk to their constituents and mull it over. We trust they did their homework and are ready to take a stand.

“There will always be excuses as to why the vote should be delayed,” state Rep. Sam Yingling, a Round Lake Beach Democrat, told the Windy City Times. “But the overwhelming majority of people in Illinois support marriage equality and we need to vote on it and get it done.”

The time has come in Illinois.

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