CALUMET CITY | When the issue of legalizing marriage for gay couples comes before the Illinois House of Representatives this spring, state Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said he plans to support it.
That is even though, by his own admission, he has received “a lot” of telephone calls and messages from various clergy members urging him to vote against it.
A bill eliminating the provisions of Illinois law that prohibit gay couples from marrying received final approval last week from the state Senate. It still has to go to the Illinois House for approval before it can go to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he would sign it into law.
In the Illinois House, Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is likely to let the issue come up for a vote later this spring during the legislative session that runs through late May.
Jones said on Thursday that he pledged his support for the bill when he met earlier this year with activists who lobby on issues concerning the lesbian and gay community.
He said he intends to keep that pledge, even though the clergy is letting Jones know they would prefer that he oppose the measure. Jones on Thursday did not identify any of the clergy who have discussed the issue with him.
The bill approved by the state Senate and under consideration by the House would permit churches and other religious organizations to refuse to cooperate in performing marriage ceremonies on religious grounds.
Jones said he considers the bill to be a matter of fairness.
“This is about making equality for everyone,” he said.
Similar arguments were expressed Thursday when the issue came before the Illinois Senate. Among local legislators, state Sens. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, and Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, were among the measure’s supporters.
“If two people want to take on the responsibilities and commitments of family, government should encourage them,” Hutchinson said, in a prepared statement. “I am so proud to be a small part of making Illinois a more open, inclusive and just state and moving our country toward greater equality for all of its citizens.”
Meanwhile, state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor, was one of two senators who voted “present” on the issue. Harris has said previously that while he opposes the idea of gay marriages on religious grounds, he thinks it is inappropriate for government to ban such marriages.
Among surrounding states, Iowa already permits gay couples to wed, while Illinois permits only civil unions.
In Indiana, a measure to put a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution is on hold as Republican legislative leaders say they want to wait until later this year when the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on a California case about the validity of gay marriage.