WBEZ | Illinois marriage equality http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-marriage-equality 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 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