WBEZ | Illinois gay marriage http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-gay-marriage Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Gay marriage begins across Illinois http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-marriage-begins-across-illinois-110267 <p><p>Dozens of county clerk offices across Illinois are set to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Monday morning.</p><p>Sunday was the legal start of gay marriage in Illinois. But only a few of the 102 county clerks statewide opened to issue the documents because the day fell on a weekend. So for many, Monday marks the widespread rollout of the law. Gov. Pat Quinn plans to mark the occasion by attending a wedding at Chicago&#39;s Museum of Contemporary Art on Monday afternoon.</p><p>More than a dozen counties - including Cook County - started issuing the licenses earlier this year after a federal court ruling, but most counties opted to wait until the law officially took effect June 1. Late last year, following an earlier court order, Cook County began issuing marriage licenses to couples in which one member was terminally ill.</p><p>Sunday was also the first day couples in civil unions could file to have their unions converted to marriages.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/barb%20roseann%20license.jpg" title="Barb McMillan, left, and her wife Roseann Szalkowski, of northwest suburban Roselle, pose with their new marriage license at the DuPage County Clerk’s Office on Monday. (WBEZ/Alex Keefe)" />Gay couples and civil rights advocates across the state marked the date Sunday with blessing ceremonies and group weddings, and several county clerks briefly opened their offices to issue licenses for those not wanting to wait for Monday morning.</p><p>Dennis Cockrum, 58, from Champaign, was among those who visited the Champaign County Clerk&#39;s office on Sunday to get a marriage license with his partner of 15 years, 55-year-old Joel Brotherton.</p><p>&quot;Being a part of history, it&#39;s something I never thought I would see in my lifetime,&quot; Cockrum said, adding the couple hadn&#39;t yet started making wedding plans.</p><p>&quot;To have love recognized, it&#39;s a tremendous day for us,&quot; Brotherton said.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state&#39;s gay marriage law in November, but last February, a federal court ruling in Chicago declared Illinois&#39; original ban unconstitutional. That cleared the way for some same-sex couples to marry.</p><p>In a statement Sunday, Quinn said Illinois is now on the &quot;right side of history.&quot;</p><p>&quot;All couples across Illinois can now receive the rights and protections under the sacred vow of marriage,&quot; he said. &quot;The Land of Lincoln has always been a place to embrace all people and today we stand as an example for the rest of the nation.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Barb%20roseann%20RINGS.jpg" style="float: right; height: 299px; width: 300px;" title="Roseann Szalkowski, left, fits a wedding ring to the finger of her wife, Barb McMillan, after the couple signed their marriage license at the DuPage County Clerk’s office on Monday morning. (WBEZ/Alex Keefe)" />Equality Illinois officials estimate about 1,300 couples have wed since February, most of them in Chicago&#39;s Cook County.</p><p>Clerks in 86 counties opted to wait until the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act officially took effect. Some counties worried that issuing licenses before June 1 could trigger lawsuits against them and perhaps cause legal problems for the couples themselves.</p><p>&quot;We have heard a lot of joyful reports,&quot; said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project director at the gay rights group Lambda Legal. &quot;Illinois is firmly in the equality column.&quot;</p><p>Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat who helped champion the gay marriageeffort in the Illinois Legislature, said Sunday was a celebration for diversity across Illinois.</p><p>&quot;Today, love wins,&quot; she said before a crowd of dozens of people, who lifted glasses of sangria to toast the occasion at a beachfront celebration on Chicago&#39;s North Side.</p><p>Michelle L. Sevig, 47, from Chicago, who also attended the celebration, said she planned to wed her longtime partner with whom she has three children. The two had their relationship blessed during a church ceremony in 1999. And in 2011, they received a civil union.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re in full celebration mode today,&quot; said Sevig, who is a Lutheran minister. &quot;Marriage equality, what can I really say? It means the world to me and my family.&quot;<br />___<br />Associated Press writer Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.</p></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 12:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-marriage-begins-across-illinois-110267 Illinois gay marriage becomes law as it prompts hope, concern http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-gay-marriage-becomes-law-it-prompts-hope-concern-109201 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/gay marriage passes - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage when Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a long-awaited&mdash;and hotly debated&mdash;bill into law on Wednesday.</p><p>The bill passed the General Assembly on Nov. 5, after months of lobbying by gay rights activists and opponents of the measure.</p><p>The new reality of gay marriage is prompting both hope and concern for the future among Illinoisans.</p><h2><strong>&lsquo;It&rsquo;s right to love each other&rsquo;</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>When Bill Kelley first moved here from Missouri as a teenager in 1959, Illinois was a very different place for gay men such as him. Gay sex then was illegal, though Illinois three years later would become the first state to repeal its sodomy laws.</p><p>Kelley says the Sexual Revolution and the civil rights movement of that era also let gays and lesbians feel freer. He went on to become an established gay rights activist in the years that followed.</p><p>But looking back, the 71-year-old says those changes took root over decades. So Kelley is not expecting any additional major cultural shifts as gay marriage becomes Illinois law.</p><p>&quot;The change in law seldom marks any abrupt change in society,&rdquo; Kelley said. &ldquo;Usually changes in laws follow changes in society as much as they provoke them.&quot;</p><p>Chen Ooi, Kelley&rsquo;s partner of 34 years, was more emotional in describing his reaction to the breakthrough on gay marriage. The 61-year-old choked back tears when he recalled how he felt when he learned the bill was approved by the legislature earlier this month, after many fits and starts.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s [a] civil right,&rdquo; Ooi said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s right to love each other. And yet, it took so long to fight for it.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelley and Ooi don&rsquo;t have a civil union under the law, enacted in 2011, that guaranteed same-sex couples some partnership rights short of marriage. And they say they aren&rsquo;t sure about getting married even though it will now be legal for them to do so.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because they&rsquo;ve organized their entire lives&mdash;finances, estates, health care decisions&mdash;all based on the idea that marriage was impossible, Ooi said.</p><p>Whatever they decide, Kelley says legalizing gay marriage is an important step in changing how people will think about same-sex couples.</p><p>Kelley compared the change to the stance many people took on the federal &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t Ask, Don&rsquo;t Tell&rdquo; &nbsp;policy that, from 1993 to 2011, allowed gays to serve in the military but required them to remain closeted. This was replaced by the current law that allows gay people to serve in the military openly.</p><p>&quot;People who didn&rsquo;t want to join the Army were in favor of repealing &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t Ask, Don&rsquo;t Tell,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kelley said. &ldquo;So it has an impact broader than just the impact that it has on couples like us.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>&lsquo;Freedom of religion is gone&rsquo;</strong></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p>That broader impact is exactly what worries some who oppose the legalizaton of gay marriage.</p><p>&quot;Freedom of speech is gone, freedom of religion is gone. And truly, that is what is being eroded,&quot; said Pastor Pat McManus, who heads the non-denominational Kingdom Impact Center in suburban Aurora.</p><p>McManus is in the process of changing his church&rsquo;s bylaws to make it clear he will not perform gay marriages. He says he does not trust the provision in Illinois&rsquo; same-sex marriage measure that already says churches can&rsquo;t be forced to marry gay couples.</p><p>&ldquo;[I] don&rsquo;t believe what they say. ... I believe that&rsquo;ll change down the road. Because once everything begins to start, it&rsquo;s gonna begin to erode all the way down,&rdquo; McManus said.</p><p>McManus says laws have been changing so quickly that he worries one day he will not be allowed to preach his belief that homosexuality is a sin.</p><p>Despite the bill&rsquo;s language, McManus says he&rsquo;s talked to a few other pastors who are also changing their bylaws, just in case they ever get sued for refusing to officiate a gay wedding.</p><p>It&rsquo;s difficult to know exactly how many Illinois churches are taking that step.</p><p>But attorney Rich Baker, who works at a socially conservative Chicago law firm, says he has helped a handful make similar changes, because the bill&rsquo;s religious protections are not strong enough.</p><p>&quot;I think the effect of that really is to say that we will give you freedom of worship within your four walls, but the Gospel outside of the four walls is not welcome,&quot; Baker said.</p><p>Baker points out that the bill&rsquo;s religious protection <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09800SB0010sam002&amp;GA=98&amp;SessionId=85&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=68375&amp;DocNum=10&amp;GAID=12&amp;Session=">clause does not apply</a> to &ldquo;businesses, health care facilities, educational facilities, or social service agencies,&rdquo; and thus could leave them open to lawsuits.</p><p>He points to a recent <a href="http://www.nmcompcomm.us/nmcases/nmsc/slips/SC33,687.pdf">case in New Mexico</a>, where the state Supreme Court ruled against a photographer who refused to take pictures of a same-sex wedding, based on her Christian faith.</p><p>In April, Bob Ferguson, the Democratic attorney general in the state of Washington, <a href="http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&amp;id=31148#.UozZJsSkrPE">sued a florist</a> who refused to sell flowers for a gay couple&rsquo;s wedding.</p><p>Baker contended that gay rights activists in Illinois have been moving the goalposts since civil unions became legal.</p><p>&quot;We were told at that time, that&rsquo;s all that was wanted, that&rsquo;s all that was needed. That was only two years ago,&rdquo; Baker said. &ldquo;And now we&rsquo;re told that, you know, it must be marriage. What will it be next?&quot;</p><p>Exactly what&rsquo;s next in the parallel fights for religious rights and gay rights could become clearer after June 1, when Illinois counties can begin issuing their first marriage licenses to gay couples.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-gay-marriage-becomes-law-it-prompts-hope-concern-109201 Sen. Kirk cancels meeting of anti-gay group http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-cancels-meeting-anti-gay-group-109167 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KIRK%20AP%20%282%29.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 429px; float: left;" title="Illinois Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk speaks at a Chicago press conference in August. (AP)" />Illinois Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is taking heat for refusing a Capitol Hill meeting space to a socially conservative group his office suggests has a &ldquo;hateful agenda&rdquo; against homosexuals.</p><p>Kirk, who has been an <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-mark-kirk-reverses-stance-gay-marriage-106428">outspoken supporter</a>&nbsp;of gay marriage, abruptly cancelled the group&rsquo;s reservation just a day before its Friday event. The Rockford-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society contacted Kirk&rsquo;s office last month to set up the <a href="http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/7722973168.html">symposium</a> on what it calls international &ldquo;natural family&rdquo; issues, said the group&rsquo;s vice president, Larry Jacobs.</p><p>That includes a controversial Russian law, criticized as being anti-gay, that makes it a crime to distribute &ldquo;propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations&rdquo; to children.</p><p>Jacobs said Kirk&rsquo;s office cancelled the reservation via email, with little explanation, after gay-friendly media outlets began inquiring about the booking.</p><p>&ldquo;We specifically are there to invite debate,&rdquo; Jacobs said, adding that asking a lawmaker to reserve a congressional meeting space is routine and doesn&rsquo;t imply an endorsement of the group using it. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really, I think, a sad day for freedom of speech, as well as just the process of government when you can&rsquo;t discuss important issues.&rdquo;</p><p>The group was able to host its event after finally booking a meeting room Thursday night through the office of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Jacobs said.</p><p>Senator Kirk&rsquo;s office initially took the reservation before it knew about the group&rsquo;s agenda, Kirk spokesman Lance Trover told WBEZ Friday.</p><p>&ldquo;Senator Kirk will not host groups that advance a hateful agenda,&rdquo; Trover said in an emailed statement.</p><p>The Howard Center believes that marriage between a man and a woman &ldquo;forms the sole moral context for natural sexual union,&rdquo; according to its website. It also says homosexuality will &ldquo;lead to obsession, remorse, alienation, and disease.&rdquo;</p><p>The group does not support violence against gays and lesbians, Jacobs said.</p><p><em>Al Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @akeefe.</em></p></p> Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-cancels-meeting-anti-gay-group-109167 Advocates work all angles to woo GOP on gay marriage http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-work-all-angles-woo-gop-gay-marriage-108750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Equality illinois fundraiser - Alex Keefe WBEZ.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As Illinois&rsquo; gay marriage advocates race to shore up support before next month&rsquo;s legislative session, they&rsquo;ve began courting votes from an unlikely quarter: Illinois House Republicans.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear exactly how many in the GOP may buck their party&rsquo;s platform and vote for same sex marriage if the bill is called for a vote when lawmakers return to Springfield at the end of October.</p><p>Leading advocates say privately it could be just a handful of representatives, and they&rsquo;re focusing on those they think could be persuaded, or who are retiring.</p><p>But that uncertainty hasn&rsquo;t stopped a coalition of pro-gay marriage groups from launching a concerted effort aimed at winning over Republicans. The groups are carpet bombing some GOP districts with constituent phone banks, and they&rsquo;re hoping big-name donors, business leaders and prominent Republicans will also lean on lawmakers behind the scenes.</p><p><a href="http://www.illinoisunites.org/">Illinois Unites for Marriage</a>, which comprises more than 60 groups, is targeting House lawmakers in 40 districts, 16 of them held by Republicans.</p><p>Advocates are also offering help with fundraising, to demonstrate that Republicans who vote &ldquo;yes&rdquo; on gay marriage could get some campaign cash to protect them if their position leads to a challenge in next year&rsquo;s primary.</p><p><strong>&lsquo;You gotta have money&rsquo;</strong></p><p>The political odd-couple relationship was on full display at an after-work fundraiser on a rainy night last week at P.J. Clarke&rsquo;s, a bar in Chicago&rsquo;s Gold Coast neighborhood.</p><p><a href="http://www.eqil.org/">Equality Illinois</a>, a Chicago-based gay rights group, invited their would-be donors to sip beer and hobnob with the three Republicans in the General Assembly who are publicly bucking their party&rsquo;s platform and supporting same-sex marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;If I do have a primary, which I think is going to happen, you gotta have money to get your message out,&rdquo; said State Rep. Ron Sandack, from Downers Grove. &ldquo;This does that. This helps in that endeavor. There&rsquo;s just no doubt about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Also there was Illinois State Sen. Jason Barickman, from downstate Bloomington, who cast the lone Republican &ldquo;yes&rdquo; vote for gay marriage when it passed the Senate this year on Valentine&rsquo;s Day. The Illinois House adjourned in May without calling the measure for a vote, but Sandack and fellow GOP State Rep Ed Sullivan, Jr., of Mundelein, have pledged their support if it does.</p><p>Equality Illinois is hoping to raise enough money to give at least $5,000 to each candidate, said Jeremy Gottschalk, who heads up Equality Illinois&rsquo; political fundraising arm. The political action committee has already donated that much to <a href="http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/A1List.aspx?ID=23792&amp;FiledDocID=503467&amp;ContributionType=AllTypes&amp;Archived=True">Sandack</a> and <a href="http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/A1List.aspx?ID=16334&amp;FiledDocID=503031&amp;ContributionType=AllTypes&amp;Archived=True">Sullivan</a>, and they&rsquo;ve also received money from big-name pro-gay marriage donors such as Laura Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, and billionaire Paul Singer, who was integral in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/nyregion/the-road-to-gay-marriage-in-new-york.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">bankrolling</a> a gay marriage bill in New York.</p><p>At last week&rsquo;s fundraiser, all three lawmakers made arguments to the crowd that seemed more geared toward their Republican colleagues.</p><p>&ldquo;If you believe in the conservative philosophy of pro-family, of freedoms, this is the vote. This is the day,&rdquo; Sullivan told the group of potential donors. &ldquo;And it&rsquo;s unfortunate we don&rsquo;t have more with us. We will. We&rsquo;re working on it.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Building pressure from constituents, big names</strong></p><p>But advocates are also hoping to build pressure from the grassroots level.</p><p>One night last week, about 10 volunteers with Illinois Unites for Marriage gathered over pizza and soda to make phone calls from the community room of a church in west suburban Clarendon Hills.</p><p>The target on this night was GOP State Rep. Sandi Pihos, and the goal was to get constituents to flood her voicemail box with messages supporting gay marriage.</p><p>Martin McAlpin, one of 20 organizers stationed around the state, acknowledges it can be an uphill climb to build support for gay marriage in this traditionally Republican enclave of the western suburbs.</p><p>&ldquo;Wheaton and Glen Ellyn are conservative strongholds, but this is not gonna pass without Republican votes,&rdquo; McAlpin said.</p><p>Pihos later told WBEZ she&rsquo;s still a solid &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote on gay marriage, citing &ldquo;overwhelming&rdquo; opposition to the bill in her district, despite the phone banking. McAlpin has also been targeting Republican State Rep. Patricia Bellock, of Westmont, who did not return phone calls from WBEZ.</p><p>Organizers declined to say exactly which other Republicans they hope to win over.</p><p>But advocates have also recruited prominent business leaders and donors in hopes of pressuring lawmakers behind the scenes. They&rsquo;ve released <a href="http://www.eqil.org/cmsdocuments/Business_Case_for_Marriage_EQIL.pdf">pamphlets</a> arguing gay marriage could boost the wedding industry and attract new talent to the state, and they cast their cause in the frame of limited government.</p><p>The American Civil Liberties Union even recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/aclu-hires-former-il-gop-head-pat-brady-lobby-gay-marriage-108537">hired</a> the former head of the state GOP, Pat Brady, to win Republican votes.</p><h2 dir="ltr"><strong>Timing is everything</strong></h2><p>But Brady and other lobbyists for same-sex marriage acknowledge there&rsquo;s one big potential obstacle to winning over Republicans by next month&rsquo;s veto session: Illinois&rsquo; political calendar.</p><p>GOP lawmakers won&rsquo;t officially know whether they&rsquo;ll face a primary challenge until ballot petitions are filed Nov. 25, more than two weeks after the legislative session is over.</p><p>&ldquo;And that&rsquo;s a real concern, the fact that these folks who are leaning toward voting for it because they believe it&rsquo;s the right thing to do might catch a primary,&rdquo; Brady said. &ldquo;So the timing of the veto session ... could be problematic.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, supporters of same-sex marriage aren&rsquo;t the only ones gearing up for a fight.</p><p>Chris Plante is with the National Organization for Marriage, which has been doing its own lobbying against the gay marriage bill in preparation for next month&rsquo;s veto session.</p><p>Plante&rsquo;s group is vowing to help defeat lawmakers who vote in favor of same-sex marriage - especially Republicans.</p><p>&ldquo;[Voters] will not stand for candidates, or for representatives who betray their constituency, who do not vote their values,&rdquo; Plante said. &ldquo;And so the consequence will be that they will lose their seat.&rdquo;</p><p>Plante wouldn&rsquo;t say how much money his group planned to drop in Illinois, acknowledging they&rsquo;ll likely be outspent by proponents of same sex marriage. But he said he is coordinating with the conservative <a href="http://illinoisfamily.org/">Illinois Family Institute</a>, and the <a href="http://illinoisfamily.org/">African American Clergy Coalition</a>, both of which have been trying to appeal to religious lawmakers and some black Democrats.</p><p>Meanwhile, Republicans who have already come out supporting gay marriage, like Rep. Sandack, say the opposition doesn&rsquo;t worry them.</p><p>&ldquo;I have no fear about that,&rdquo; Sandack said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t cause me any pause. That&rsquo;s part of the process. I signed up for it. If that&rsquo;s what they wanna do, Godspeed.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Sep 2013 11:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-work-all-angles-woo-gop-gay-marriage-108750 Advocates ask for quick rulings in gay marriage cases http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-ask-quick-rulings-gay-marriage-cases-108017 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/doma_shawn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-23e84928-ca24-11d0-f295-8d4f26b1b71a">Lawyers for 25 Illinois gay couples are asking a Cook County judge to skip a trial and declare the state&rsquo;s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, pointing to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that will grant some federal benefits to legally married gay couples.</p><p dir="ltr">Attorneys for the couples filed a motion for summary judgement on Wednesday, arguing the justices&rsquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-strikes-down-federal-provision-denying-benefits-legally-married-gay-couples">decision</a> to overturn a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last month adds new urgency to their cause.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Illinois is now the only thing standing between these families and the numerous federal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities that go to married families,&rdquo; said Lambda Legal lawyer Camilla Taylor, who is representing the couples along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">The Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision paves the way for legally married same-sex couples to get some federal benefits previously reserved to heterosexual couples, such as veterans&rsquo; benefits or tax breaks.</p><p dir="ltr">But the decision <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-ruling-%E2%80%98bittersweet%E2%80%99-illinois-civil-union-couples-107867">likely won&rsquo;t apply</a> to Illinois couples who have entered into civil unions, or even couples who have been legally married in one of the 13 states that <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/same-sex-marriage-overview.aspx">currently allow</a> same-sex marriage. The couples are now asking that a Cook County judge quickly strike down the state&rsquo;s gay marriage ban, saying civil unions don&rsquo;t provide equal protections in light of the high court&rsquo;s ruling.</p><p dir="ltr">For 81-year-old James Darby, a Korean War veteran who is a plaintiff in the case, that means Illinois law will prevent him from being buried in a military cemetery alongside his partner of 50 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I served my country and I come back home, and I expect to have the same rights as everybody else,&rdquo; Darby said Wednesday. &ldquo;But unfortunately, I am considered second-class citizen in my own home state.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But the recent Supreme Court decision doesn&rsquo;t mean states aren&rsquo;t allowed to make their own marriage laws, said Peter Breen, a lawyer with the conservative Thomas More Society. His group is defending the state law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, which was passed in 1996.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There was nothing discriminatory about that action,&rdquo; Breen said, referring to the state law. &ldquo;And a decision in 2013 by the U.S. Supreme Court, on an issue of federal law, doesn&rsquo;t somehow make our Illinois state law defining marriage unconstitutional.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Breen accuses the plaintiffs in the case of dragging their feet to avoid a debate on the merits of the state law. Arguments on whether to dismiss the case are set for Aug. 6.</p><p dir="ltr">The 25 same-sex couples from around Illinois first filed their lawsuits <a href="http://www.wbez.org/years-groundwork%E2%80%94and-waiting%E2%80%94behind-illinois-gay-marriage-suits-99965">last year</a>, after each was denied a marriage license by the Cook County Clerk&rsquo;s office. But in a rare <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-states-attorney-illinois-same-sex-marriage-ban-unconstitutional-100101">move</a>, Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Attorney General Lisa Madigan - both Democrats - refused to defend the state&rsquo;s gay marriage ban in court, saying they thought the state law was unconstitutional. A judge has since allowed some downstate county clerks to act as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/downstate-county-clerks-move-defend-gay-marriage-ban-100583">defendants</a> in the case.</p><p dir="ltr">A measure to legalize same-sex marriage is still stuck in the Illinois General Assembly, after lawmakers left Springfield in May <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-lawmakers-skip-same-sex-marriage-vote-107480">without taking a vote</a> on it.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a></em></p></p> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 14:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-ask-quick-rulings-gay-marriage-cases-108017 Gay rights groups bristle at being excluded from immigration bill http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-rights-groups-bristle-being-excluded-immigration-bill-107316 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/durbin_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some Illinois gay rights advocates say they feel betrayed by their Democratic allies because same-sex couples aren&rsquo;t legally recognized in an immigration overhaul bill that&rsquo;s headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate next month.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/legislation/immigration/amendments/Leahy/Leahy7-%28MDM13374%29.pdf" target="_blank">provision</a> to recognize so-called bi-national same-sex couples was dropped from the bill at the last minute on Tuesday, just before it was approved, 13 to 5, by the Senate Judiciary Committee.</p><p>Some Senate Republicans had warned the amendment would sink the larger immigration bill. That apparently prompted some Democrats who traditionally back gay rights issues, including Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, to urge his colleagues to leave the language relating to gay couples out of the bill.</p><p>&quot;I believe in my heart of hearts that what you&#39;re doing is the right and just thing,&quot; Durbin said at Tuesday&rsquo;s hearing. &quot;But I believe this is the wrong moment, that this is the wrong bill.&quot;</p><p>Recognition of a same-sex relationship in federal immigration law would mean that marriage or civil unions could be grounds to grant legal status to an immigrant spouse, or to prevent their deportation. Federal law currently defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, although the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the issue.</p><p>Its exclusion from the Senate bill, after months of lobbying lawmakers, prompted a backlash from Illinois gay rights advocates.</p><p>&ldquo;My initial reaction is anger. Anger that, again, we get scapegoated,&rdquo; said Julio Rodriguez, chair of the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not only a tragedy, but I think it&rsquo;s a sad statement on the part of our allies, and the relationships that I think we believed that we had,&rdquo; Rodriguez said.</p><p>Despite the setback, activists will continue to lobby lawmakers to include recognition for gay couples in a later amendment to the bill in the Democrat-led U.S. Senate, said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state&rsquo;s largest gay rights advocacy group.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the right bill and this is the right time,&rdquo; Cherkasov said Wednesday. &ldquo;You know, this is a comprehensive immigration reform. This could be the only chance we have in a decade, if not in a generation, to fix all the problems of our broken immigration system.&rdquo;</p><p>The pressure from gay rights groups puts Illinois&rsquo; two senators in a difficult political position. Durbin is a liberal Democrat who has traditionally enjoyed support from the gay rights community, and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk recently bucked his own party to announce his support for same-sex marriage.</p><p>But Durbin didn&rsquo;t immediately respond to WBEZ&rsquo;s interview request Wednesday. And Kirk&rsquo;s office declined to comment on whether he supports recognition of same-sex couples, saying that he&rsquo;s still reviewing the bill.</p><p>The news comes as a blow to the estimated 267,000 gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, according to one <a href="http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/us-lgbt-immigrants-mar-2013/" target="_blank">recent study</a>.</p><p>The lack of legal recognition puts that group in limbo, said Phillip Knoll, a 31-year-old Chicagoan who has been dating his boyfriend, who came to the United States from Singapore on a student visa, for the last five years. The legal uncertainty makes it hard to plan for their future together, Knoll said.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s weird to have to consider whether or not you&rsquo;re able to make the sort of decision that&rsquo;s really personal, and that something political has to happen first,&rdquo; Knoll said. &ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s an odd way to think of yourself.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Knoll said he and his partner remain optimistic that they&rsquo;ll stay together geographically. But down the road, Knoll said his boyfriend&rsquo;s immigration status could affect their decision to marry &ndash; or even to leave the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;And it would feel like getting pushed out, right?&rdquo; Knoll said.&rdquo; I think it would feel like we were not welcome in the country [where] I was born, and in a country that he&rsquo;s been welcome as a student. Why can&rsquo;t he stay and contribute?&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alex Keefe is a WBEZ political reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a></em></p></p> Wed, 22 May 2013 15:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-rights-groups-bristle-being-excluded-immigration-bill-107316