WBEZ | Greg Harris http://www.wbez.org/tags/greg-harris Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn says he will sign marriage equality bill this month http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-says-he-will-sign-marriage-equality-bill-month-109084 <p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn says he will sign legislation allowing same sex couples in&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;to marry this month.&nbsp;</p><p>The Chicago Democrat said Wednesday the timing will depend on an event involving activists and advocates in support the measure, saying he hopes to include everyone who fought to pass it.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s important to have an opportunity for the people who worked so hard in the community to pass marriage equality to have an opportunity to be there at the bill signing,&quot; he said.</p><p>When Quinn signed&nbsp;Illinois&#39; civil union bill in January 2011, about 1,000 people attended the event at the Chicago Cultural Center.</p><p><strong>State Rep. Yingling&nbsp;proposes&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Just hours after the state Legislature approved the bill Tuesday, State Rep. Sam Yingling of Round Lake Beach proposed to his partner at a celebration at the Governor&#39;s Mansion.&nbsp;</p><p>The Democrat says he&#39;s been carrying a ring back and forth to Springfield for about a year, waiting for the chance to propose. The couple, who have been together three years and have three children,&nbsp;plan to get a marriage license as soon as the law goes into effect in June.</p><p>Illinois will be the 15th state along with the District of Columbia to allow same-sex couples to wed. It is also the third state in the Midwest to do so, following Minnesota and Iowa.</p><p><strong>&#39;America is a Journey&#39;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The state House of Representatives approved the bill Tuesday by a vote of 61-54 with two voting present. The state Senate approved the measure in February, but for procedural reasons it was voted on and passed there again.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;At the end of the day, this bill is about the vision that the founders of our country had and wrote into our constitution,&rdquo; said the bill&#39;s sponsor,&nbsp;Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris. &ldquo;They said America is not a destination. America is a journey.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The nearly three hours-long debate on the House floor Tuesday proved how divisive same-sex marriage remains &mdash; even though Democrats maintain a supermajority.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You already have civil unions,&rdquo; Rep. David Reis (R-Olney) said on the floor Tuesday. &ldquo;You admitted two years ago that&rsquo;s all you wanted. Let&rsquo;s just leave it at that and honor the most basic tenet of our state and federal constitution: religious freedom.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP793565798873%281%29.jpg" style="float: left; width: 300px; height: 238px;" title="AP (Illinois Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, left, is congratulated by lawmakers as gay marriage legislation passes on the House floor during veto session Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Springfield Ill. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, top center, looks on.)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><b>Both sides lobby hard</b></p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, lobbyists in favor of gay marriage pushed hard for a vote before lawmakers adjourned from the spring session, which ended in May.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, Harris gave a tearful speech from the House floor, saying he simply didn&rsquo;t have the required support to call for a vote.</p><p dir="ltr">With the bill stalled, leaders of several black mega-churches organized aggressive robocalls in the districts of black House members for months, placing the mostly Democratic black caucus in the spotlight. Many of those caucus members remained undecided until the last minute.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, supporters of the bill <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/advocates-work-all-angles-woo-gop-gay-marriage-108750">tried to woo Republicans</a> with fundraisers for those who would vote in favor of it.</p><p dir="ltr">Advocates credit final passage to House Speaker Michael Madigan, who called for on-the-fence lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For those that just happen to be gay living in a very harmonious productive relationship ... who am I to judge that they should be illegal?&rdquo; Madigan said. &ldquo;Who is the government to judge?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Newly-named House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) also worked the bill behind the scenes, according to two sources familiar with the lobbying efforts.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This is a deeply personal and emotional issue for individuals on both sides,&quot; Durkin said in a statement to WBEZ Thursday. &quot;I&rsquo;ve said all along that the individual members of my caucus must each vote for their own district, and conscious, and be prepared to go home and answer their constituents.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>State lawsuits to be withdrawn&nbsp;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Advocates&nbsp;have also been pushing for gay marriage through the legal system. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Last year 25 same-sex couples from around the state filed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/years-groundwork%E2%80%94and-waiting%E2%80%94behind-illinois-gay-marriage-suits-99965">lawsuits</a> in Cook County challenging the state&rsquo;s ban on gay marriage. In a rare move, Democratic Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to defend the state law, and Democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed court papers saying she, too, thought the gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.</p><p dir="ltr">If and when Gov. Quinn signs the bill, those lawsuits will likely be withdrawn, said Camilla Taylor, a lawyer for Lambda Legal, one of the groups that challenged the state law.</p><p dir="ltr">But with an effective date of June 2014, the issue is still expected to be a factor in the race for Illinois governor &mdash; especially in the competitive Republican primary.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a name="playlist"></a>Listen back: Stories and conversations leading up to SCOTUS&#39; gay marriage decision&nbsp;</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/7148059" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Note: This story has been updated to include a statement from House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.</em></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold. WBEZ&rsquo;s Alex Keefe contributed to this report. Follow him @akeefe.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-says-he-will-sign-marriage-equality-bill-month-109084 More officials call for use of TIF funds to stop school cuts http://www.wbez.org/news/more-officials-call-use-tif-funds-stop-school-cuts-107933 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tifED.jpg" title="State Rep. Greg Harris, center, calls for TIF funds to prevent school cuts along with, from left to right, Commissioner John Fritchey, Ald. Ameya Pawar and State Rep. Ann Williams. (WBEZ/Patrick Smith)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F99427143" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>A group of local and state lawmakers has joined the chorus of public officials, parents and advocates calling for the city to use Tax Increment Financing funds to plug the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-parents-students-protest-budget-cuts-schools-107877">Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; budget gap</a>.</p><p>Speaking at a press conference today, 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar said the city needs to declare a TIF surplus and transfer money from the economic development fund to local schools.</p><p>&ldquo;We are here to discuss a crisis that is about to hit the classrooms in about 10 weeks,&rdquo; Pawar said.</p><p>Pawar was joined by state Reps. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) and Greg Harris (D-Chicago), Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th) and about a dozen Chicago parents.</p><p>The lawmakers called for using TIF funds in response to cuts to local school budgets across the city.</p><p>&ldquo;Over the past couple weeks I have heard from more than 100 parents about the significant and devastating cuts to our neighborhood schools,&rdquo; Williams said.</p><p>The school district says it is facing a $1 billion budget deficit, and the parent group Raise Your Hand says it has tallied more than $80 million in cuts at about 100 local schools.</p><p>In an emailed statement to WBEZ, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll wrote that the use of TIF funds is a &ldquo;one-time fix&rdquo; that can&rsquo;t address a structural financial deficit.</p><p>&ldquo;We have made more than $600 million in cuts to the central office while doing everything we can to protect critical classroom investments. Now it&rsquo;s time for Springfield to pass meaningful pension reform as a way to help balance our budget, protect the classroom, and ensure a better education and brighter future for our students,&rdquo; Carroll wrote.</p><p>Pawar called using a TIF surplus &ldquo;a one-time fix,&rdquo; that needs to be done.</p><p>&ldquo;We are asking that the city ... declare a TIF surplus and get dollars back into our classrooms, while simultaneously addressing structural issues in Springfield,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In her email Carroll wrote that the city has been sharing TIF surpluses with the school district since 2009 and plans to do so again this year, to the tune of about $18 million.</p><p>And she said the district could be in line for another $10 million in TIF surpluses, and amount she termed &ldquo;a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 [billion] structural gap.&rdquo;</p><p>Almost every parent standing behind the officials at the press conference said they had considered moving out of Chicago because of the budget cuts.</p><p>Lakeview resident Amy Shulman said she is worried about cuts to physical education, language classes and arts education at Burley Elementary where her daughter is about to enter second grade.</p><p>&ldquo;This weekend I struggled &hellip;. We need to potentially leave the city given the situation,&rdquo; Shulman said.</p><p>Shulman said it would be bad for the city if parents like her felt they had to leave because of school cuts.</p><p>&ldquo;If we don&rsquo;t stay, if our families don&rsquo;t stay in the city it won&rsquo;t be a world-class city anymore,&rdquo; Shulman said.</p><p>What seemed to most upset the parents at the event was the combination of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/agreement-reached-longer-chicago-school-day-101148">longer school day which went into effect last year</a>, with less funding for arts and other classes.</p><p>&ldquo;Having a full day of school while cutting back core classes is like inviting someone over for a buffet and there&rsquo;s no food on the table,&rdquo; Fritchey said.</p><p>Pawar said the group is calling for a two-pronged approach to school deficits, the first is the use of a TIF surplus as a temporary fix and the second is a call to legislators to fix pensions and to increase state funding for education.</p><p>The use of economic development funds as an emergency stopgap for CPS was the only specific solution the group agreed on.</p><p>Fritchey called for a permanent change to TIFs that would exempt CPS funds from the tax program.</p><p>Harris said the state needs to switch to a graduated income tax to raise more revenue for schools.</p><p>For her part, Williams said she was optimistic that the legislature would resolve the pension issue, allowing for more state money for education.</p><p>Using TIF funds to address school budget cuts is not a new idea, and the <a href="http://bobfioretti.com/statement-progressive-reform-caucus-on-chicago-public-school-budget-cuts/">Chicago City Council&rsquo;s Progressive Reform Caucus called for a similar solution last week.</a></p><div><span id="docs-internal-guid-24920b29-a192-eb16-cea9-cc0026132d2f"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter. Follow him on twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid" style="text-decoration:none;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">@pksmid</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.</span></span></div></p> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-officials-call-use-tif-funds-stop-school-cuts-107933 Want to get back at the politicans who denied marriage equality? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-06/want-get-back-politicans-who-denied-marriage-equality-107564 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS5276_IMG_2395-scr.JPG" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: right;" title="File: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />The failure of the Illinois state legislature to pass the marriage equality bill has certain folks suggesting payback for those elected officials at, of all misguided and silly things, the annual Pride Parade coming up June 30. There&rsquo;s even <a href="http://www.change.org/petitions/deny-entry-of-illinois-politicians-in-44th-annual-chicago-pride-parade" target="_blank">a petition</a> over at Change.org asking that politicians be denied entry into the parade. It&rsquo;s already garnered more than 1,800 signatures.<br /><br />But as Tracey Baim very reasonably explains in a current editorial in <em>Windy City Times</em>, it&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Editorial-Politicians-and-Pride/43080.html" target="_blank">questionable tactic</a>.&nbsp; For starters, the only two state reps who are registered to participate are Greg Harris and Sarah Feigenholtz. Denying them would actually be denying ourselves.<br /><br />And, anyway, it&rsquo;s too late: the Parade is set, whomever was going to come and party with us decided to do so before the vote on marriage equality. Want to make a political calculation out of the parade? Count the absences, then cross reference them with the promises we&rsquo;ve been hearing this last year.<br /><br />Over at the <em>Reader</em>, Ben Joravsky makes some <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2013/06/05/gay-marriage-breakdown-the-republican-state-of-chicagos-democratic-politics" target="_blank">salient observations</a>&nbsp;about the vote: It boils down to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel suckering the LGBTQ community for bucks and votes in exchange for their &ldquo;concern&rdquo; and &ldquo;support.&rdquo;<br /><br />As Joravsky explains, there&rsquo;s a Democratic majority, with a sitting governor who&rsquo;s promised to sign the marriage equality bill, and a speaker whose better known as the Great and Powerful Oz. The math doesn&rsquo;t add up, especially when you factor in the passing of Emanuel&rsquo;s pet project, the $300 million <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/sports/20113457-419/with-rahms-depaul-plan-weve-entered-a-new-arena-of-stupidity.html" target="_blank">giveaway to the Catholic Church</a> at McCormick Place. I&rsquo;m referring to the new DePaul stadium, a project announced and passed in less than a month&rsquo;s time, with barely a breath for citizens to respond.<br /><br />Think about that and the years it&rsquo;s taken to bring marriage equality up for consideration. Think about the kind of power that can put that kind of deal together in such a blink of the eye but then chooses to sit on its hands for marriage equality.<br /><br />Michael Madigan and Rahm Emanuel both claim to be strong LGBTQ supporters.<br /><br />So what happened?<br /><br />Joravsky suggests that keeping the LGBTQ community on the precipice of equality means we keep giving to make it happen. A personal ATM, that&rsquo;s what he says we are to Madigan and Emanuel.<br /><br />And I don&rsquo;t think he&rsquo;s wrong.<br /><br />But I also think there&rsquo;s a different deal going down, and it&rsquo;s less about us and more about Madigan. By denying Gov. Pat Quinn important legislative victories&mdash;same-sex marriage, pension reform&mdash;he&rsquo;s setting the stage to run daughter Lisa against him.<br /><br />Some activists recently called for <a href="http://progressillinois.com/posts/content/2013/06/03/marriage-equality-advocates-disappointed-we-were-promised-vote-video">holding Lisa Madigan responsible</a> based precisely on this reasoning.&nbsp; That too would be disappointing: We don&rsquo;t visit the sins of the fathers on their children in this country, and Lisa Madigan has been an unwavering&mdash;and real&mdash;supporter.<br /><br />And some even called for Harris&mdash;the gay Representative who led the pro-marriage charge&mdash;to pay a price for backing away from calling a vote. Madness, if you ask me. Has anyone been more dedicated?<br /><br />Want to get back at those state legislators who actually screwed us? Don&rsquo;t vote for them. Don&rsquo;t vote for their acolytes. Don&rsquo;t vote for Emanuel, no matter how chiseled and flirty he is at the next big gay event. Keep your hands in your pockets and don&rsquo;t give a dime to any of them.<br /><br />Want to get some respect? Stop playing the spurned lover.</p></p> Thu, 06 Jun 2013 09:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-06/want-get-back-politicans-who-denied-marriage-equality-107564 Illinois lawmakers skip same-sex marriage vote http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-lawmakers-skip-same-sex-marriage-vote-107480 <p><p>After months of public campaigns on both sides of the issue, the sponsor of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois didn&#39;t call the measure for a vote before lawmakers adjourned from the Spring session.</p><p>&ldquo;Several of my colleagues have indicated they would not be willing to cast a vote on this bill today,&rdquo; said a teary State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, on the House floor at the end of the night Friday. Some in the gallery could be heard screaming &ldquo;cowards.&rdquo; Harris has been pushing for same-sex marriage for years.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve never been sadder to accept such a request, but I have to keep my eye, as we all must, on the ultimate prize,&rdquo; Harris continued.</p><p>He went on to say that those on the fence wanted to talk to residents in their districts over the summer, and they would support the legislation when lawmakers returned in November.</p><p>&ldquo;They wanted to hide behind a process that allows them now to go for six months without us knowing who it is,&rdquo; said Jim Bennett, with Lambda Legal. &ldquo;But we had every right to know which representatives stood with us, and which ones did not.&rdquo;</p><p>Bennett said he&rsquo;s pinning his hopes on the legal system, not the legislative, to allow same-sex marriage in Illinois. A lawsuit is currently pending.</p><p>The decision to not vote on the bill follows months of high profile lobbying from both opponents and proponents of the issue after the state Senate approved same-sex marriage in February. Proponents recruited public relation agencies, high profile politicians like former President Bill Clinton and even retired Chicago Bears players to lobby state representatives to vote in favor of same-sex marriage.</p><p>Meantime, opponents held rallies outside suburban lawmakers&rsquo; offices who were undecided on the issue. Some religious leaders used robocalls to encourage residents to ask their local state representative to vote &ldquo;no&rdquo; on the measure. A lot of those lobbying efforts occurred in suburban and largely African-American parts of Chicago.</p><p>In 2011, Illinois approved a bill allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. Shortly after the state legislature approved that bill, the lobbying efforts for marriage began.</p><p>The state legislature&rsquo;s vote comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on two court cases related to same-sex marriage. One challenges a ballot initiative in California that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The other court case is attempting to strike down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies same-sex married couples benefits granted to married heterosexuals.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 May 2013 22:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-lawmakers-skip-same-sex-marriage-vote-107480 Citing gay marriage, state rep withdraws from Illinois GOP chair search http://www.wbez.org/news/citing-gay-marriage-state-rep-withdraws-illinois-gop-chair-search-107183 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sandack.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Republican State Rep. Ron Sandack is bowing out of the running to become the next state GOP chairman, in part because some party insiders thought his support for same-sex marriage would be too controversial.</p><p>Sandack, from suburban Downers Grove, withdrew his name early Wednesday. He said he had heard from a number of Republican activists, elected officials and &ldquo;inside party people&rdquo; who suggested his public support of same-sex marriage legislation in Springfield might be too controversial for him to get the chairmanship.</p><p>But Sandack told WBEZ Wednesday afternoon he did not feel pressured to withdraw his name.</p><p>&ldquo;The issue is controversial,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And I don&rsquo;t wanna be a fight, and that issue to be a fight, when we really oughta be talking about who&rsquo;s best suited to be the next party chairman.&rdquo;</p><p>Sandack also expressed concerns about dividing his time between running the state party and serving constituents.</p><p>The issue of same-sex marriage has been a thorny one for the Illinois Republican Party. Former state GOP chairman Pat Brady <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/illinois-gop-chairman-pat-brady-resign-107043" target="_blank">resigned</a> last week following an embarrassing public flap over his support for gay marriage. Brady&rsquo;s opponents maintained his support of gay marriage wasn&rsquo;t the reason he had to go, but because he publicly bucked a plank in the party platform, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.</p><p>Sandack echoed that concern Wednesday, anticipating his &ldquo;yes&rdquo; vote for gay marriage in the Illinois House before the end of the General Assembly&rsquo;s spring session.</p><p>&ldquo;I am in the state House and I gotta vote my district and my conscience and try and do, you know, both,&rdquo; Sandack said. &ldquo;Sometimes that doesn&rsquo;t comport with the black-letter law of the party platform.&rdquo;</p><p>Sandack said no member of the Republican State Central Committee, the panel of party bosses who will pick the next chairman, encouraged him to drop out.</p><p>Sandack&rsquo;s withdrawal means party bosses now have eight chairman candidates to choose from.</p><p>Still in the running is Cook County Commissioner Timothy Schneider, of Elk Grove Village; former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh; former congressional candidate Jim Nalepa; former Illinois lieutenant governor candidate Don Tracy; former Cook County State&#39;s Attorney candidate Lori Yokoyama; and current Republican State Central Committee members Jack Dorgan, Angel Garcia and Mark Shaw.</p><p><em>Correction: This story was updated to change the spelling of Lori Yokoyama&#39;s name, and the office for which she ran in 2012.</em></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, 15 May 2013 12:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/citing-gay-marriage-state-rep-withdraws-illinois-gop-chair-search-107183 Marriage equality fight heats up in Illinois http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/marriage-equality-fight-heats-illinois-106151 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ap-closer-look-gay-marriage-4_3_r536_c534.jpg" style="width: 379px; height: 280px;" title="Greg Harris (AP) " /></p><p>Five years from now, Illinois&rsquo; campaign for marriage equality is going to make for a great docudrama on HBO -- or a soap opera.</p><p>Last week, queer and allied Illinoisians flocked to Springfield, awaiting a full House vote on equality legislation. As of March 15, the <em>Windy City Times </em>stated that the vote could &ldquo;come any day,&rdquo; which was the same thing that onlookers had been saying all week. Although Rahm Emanuel warned that the &ldquo;clock is ticking&rdquo; on equality legislation, the bill stalled as advocates struggled to rally the votes necessary to pass the bill.</p><p>The House needs 60 votes to pass the euphemistically titled &ldquo;Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act&rdquo; onto Gov. Pat Quinn, who has sworn to sign it. <em>Chicago Magazine</em> counted 43 affirmative &ldquo;yes&rdquo; votes, as well as another 20 &ldquo;toss ups.&rdquo; The <em>Huffington Post</em> claimed last week that the bill was still <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/illinois-gay-marriage-rol_n_2870528.html">12 votes away</a> from passage, and Windy City Times has their own running <a href="http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Representatives-How-they-stand-on-equal-marriage-in-Illinois-/41973.html">count</a> of how representatives will fall based on their previous votes.</p><p>With the fervent support of Emanuel, Quinn and GOP party leader Pat Brady, who stated that Republicans are &ldquo;on the wrong side of the issue,&rdquo; many thought the bill would sail through the House, based on its easy passage in the Senate. On Valentine&#39;s Day, the bill passed by a 13 vote margin, giving voice to the wide support for the bill in the state.</p><p>In the past week, national momentum has added pressure to our local conversation about marriage equality. Colorado passed civil unions at the same time that prominent politicians like Hillary Clinton and Ohio Republican Rob Portman have come out in support of equal marriage. Portman&rsquo;s son, Will, came out to his father two years ago, and the conservative senator announced his change of heart on the issue last Friday. Even George W. Bush recently signed a brief advocating that the Supreme Court overturn California&rsquo;s marriage ban. He was joined in his opposition to Prop. 8 by over 70 other prominent Republicans.</p><p>In March, Jon Huntsman advocated that the Grand Old Party officially embrace the issue as the GOP struggles to stay relevant in the Obama Era. For Huntsman, it&rsquo;s not just that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/gay-marriage-conservative-cause-argument-against-equality-106068">marriage equality is a conservative cause</a>. It&rsquo;s everyone&rsquo;s cause.</p><p>So, what&rsquo;s the hold up in Illinois?</p><p>Although Chicagoans often like to pretend we like in a totally Democratic state, this fight shows just how politically divided we are, between the Blue North and the Red South. Illinois is a little perfect petri dish of the national conversation, where polls show a <a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/03/18/poll-58-americans-support-marriage-equality">wide majority</a> of Americans (58 percent versus 32 percent just nine years ago) now support full marriage benefits for everyone, even though a sizeable minority of queer people live in states that offer them those rights. Only nine states have passed marriage equality legislation, and most of those are tucked away in New England.</p><p>Like Huntsman, the former governor of heavily conservative Utah, Pat Brady of St. Charles has supported marriage equality only to see his popularity plummet and his own party work for his removal. Although the meeting for his official ousting was cancelled, the <em>Daily Herald </em><a href="http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130315/news/703159681/?interstitial=1">claimed</a> Brady would have been only one vote away from losing his position.</p><p>At a time when conservatives are allegedly loosening their grip on marriage opposition, Brady and Illinois Senator Jason Barickman&rsquo;s experiences tell a different story. Barickman was the only Republican Senator to vote in favor of the bill on Valentine&#39;s Day. As he cast his vote, Barickman clearly shocked the room. One rumor mentioned boos in the audience, like something out of <em>Lincoln</em>. Rumors of Barickman&#39;s demise have been slightly exaggerated, but he has faced criticism from colleagues for stepping away from the party line and been attacked by a conservative lobby group.</p><p>Earlier this year, the National Organization for Marriage threatened to <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/gop-chairman-lawmaker-take-heat-gay-marriage">fight the reelection</a> of any Republicans who vote &quot;Yes&quot; on the bill, and another conservative group posted Brady&rsquo;s number online (ala MIA and the New York Times). The chairman&rsquo;s phone quickly overflowed with angry calls and messages from same-gender marriage opponents. According to Pat Brady, he &ldquo;didn&rsquo;t know [those words] were in the Bible.&rdquo; Exasperated with the excoriation by his own party, Brady said, &ldquo;It just plays into a national narrative of the GOP as being close minded.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the AP, just 47 Republican lawmakers have <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/gop-chairman-lawmaker-take-heat-gay-marriage">voted for marriage</a> in the eight state legislatures surveyed, and all of them have faced party retribution for it. Interestingly though, Freedom to Marry statistics show that 97% of legislators &quot;who voted for marriage and ran for re-election won,&quot; as well as 71% of Republicans. More than half of the Republicans who lost re-election did so for other reasons.</p><p>In Illinois, Brady isn&rsquo;t the only one getting hounded for his stance. In <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130312/chicago/chicagos-family-pac-behind-robocalls-against-illinois-gay-marriage">robocalls</a> from the ultra-conservative Chicago-based Family PAC group, PAC director Paul Caprio decried Hillsdale Rep. Mike Smiddy for receiving &ldquo;homosexual money&rdquo; in his campaign donations and (like our new virulently anti-gay pope) warned that &quot;same-sex marriage denies children the right to know who their real parent is.&rdquo;</p><p>This leaves me with two sets of questions:</p><p>1. Where can I get some of that homosexual money? Is it covered in glitter? Can I only use it at Homosexualland or is it valid everywhere?</p><p>2. Are Republicans against adoption in general? What about straight adoption? Are they in cahoots with the new Pope on this?</p><p>Elsewhere, Rep. Jeanne Ives of the strongly religious and wildly conservative Wheaton, Illinois continued Caprio&rsquo;s line of argumentation. In a February radio interview for the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Ives argued, &ldquo;To not have a mother and a father is really a disordered state for a child to grow up in and it really makes that child an object of desire rather than the result of a matrimony.&rdquo; Ives went onto call same-gender partnerships a &ldquo;disordered relationship&rdquo; and to refer to the marriage equality fight as queer people &ldquo;trying to weasel their way into acceptability.&rdquo;</p><p>Ives has since (kind of) retracted her statements, after being criticized by Think Progress, Civil Rights Agenda director Anthony Martinez and Illinois Rep. Greg Harris.</p><p>As the issue continues to <a href="http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/political-fix/illinois-gay-marriage-debate-is-splitting-parties-churches/article_34189858-9791-57cd-8611-fd774e79a3dc.html">divide our parties and churches,</a> and both opposition and support becomes more vocal, a recent email from Harris reminded followers that &ldquo;this is our chance to make history.&rdquo; The local leader of the marriage equality fight highlighted the campaign&rsquo;s &ldquo;incredible successes over the past several months.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Harris, advocates have &ldquo;grown support in every region of the state and made [the] case to lawmakers, Every time we&rsquo;ve faced an obstacle, we&rsquo;ve overcome it because of [Illinois&rsquo;] commitment to moving marriage forward.&rdquo; Although the bill is seeing short-term blockage, Harris stated that it could have never come this far without wide support. It&rsquo;s about playing the long game. &nbsp;</p><p>When I spoke to Jim Bennett, the Midwest Director of Lambda Legal, he recognized that the bill faces obstacles to passage but assured that &ldquo;we are confident that marriage is coming to Illinois, whether through the legislature or through the courts. No one should be satisfied with a second-class status.&rdquo;</p><p>The organization is currently working with the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition to get people to call their representatives.</p><p>&ldquo;The most important thing any of us can do right now is to contact our representatives and ask for their vote on the marriage bill,&quot; Bennett said. &quot;We have many priority areas, so we will continue to have plenty of work to do. Just because marriage is enacted doesn&rsquo;t mean that the potential for discrimination disappears.&rdquo;</p><p>Anthony Martinez, the Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda, (an organization I used to organize with) has been likewise working to keep the momentum going.</p><p>&ldquo;With initiatives such as this one, that take such a long time to pass, we find that sometimes supporters get tired, and so we have to ensure that we are able to reinvigorate folks as we move forward,&rdquo; Martinez said.</p><p>&ldquo;Anybody who said this is a slam dunk is fooling themselves,&quot; continued Martinez. &quot;Anyone who tried to put a timeline on this is fooling themselves and the community. The House has always been the heavier lift and we can do this, but the community must continue to push. This is not about public relations puffery, this is about getting the job done, and that is what we are doing.&quot;</p><p>I don&rsquo;t know when we will see marriage equality pass in Illinois, but I know I can&rsquo;t wait for the movie.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBT issues in Chicago. You can find Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or on the <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 18 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/marriage-equality-fight-heats-illinois-106151 New Illinois House committee to investigate all elements of criminal justice system http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/new-illinois-house-committee-investigate-all-elements-criminal-justice-system-105310 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lashawn ford.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois House of Representatives has created a new committee to address inequalities in the state&rsquo;s criminal justice system, while the chairman of the new committee faces his own legal problems.</p><p>State Rep. LaShawn Ford is the chairman of the new Restorative Justice Committee.</p><p>He&rsquo;s also been indicted for bank fraud.</p><p>&ldquo;Even before the situation that has occurred with me, you will see that my record shows that I&rsquo;ve always fought for a fairness in justice,&rdquo; Ford said.</p><p>He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.</p><p>Ford said he wants to address some wide-ranging issues in his new position, from finding jobs for ex-offenders to disparities in sentencing guidelines to reducing violent crime in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a state of emergency that&rsquo;s going on in the communities,&rdquo; Ford said.</p><p>Ford&rsquo;s fellow Democratic committee members also expressed a desire to use the committee to discuss the variety of issues that relate to the criminal justice system.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve seen in the debate after the terrible shooting incident in Connecticut how issues of criminal law and mental health and, you know, other different categories sort of intersect,&rdquo; said State. Rep. Greg Harris. &ldquo;And I think we need to take a holistic look at all of those things.&rdquo;</p><p>But several House committees already address the individual issues the committee members said they hope to discuss. Harris said the Restorative Justice Committee will address all sides of these issues.</p><p>&ldquo;I think often in government, things tend to go in silos where you look at things based on the source who uses the funds and there&rsquo;s a lot of interrelationships between levels of education and levels of job preparedness and the availability of jobs in the community along with mental health issues and substance abuse and crime,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So to look at them just in a - isolate the little box may not give you the whole picture.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The problem is, we&rsquo;re kind of fragmented,&rdquo; said another Restorative Justice Committee member, State Rep. Mary Flowers. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve passed laws that really don&rsquo;t - we really don&rsquo;t communicate very well.&rdquo;</p><p>Flowers gave the example of how the state mandates that children go to school, but not all kids have the same resources once they get to school.</p><p>She said one of her goals of the committee is to address how people in Illinois view crime, echoing the approach of restorative justice as a crime fighting technique. Flowers said she wants to use the committee to prevent violent offenders from committing a crime in the first place.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s easy to talk about putting 200 more police officers on the streets,&rdquo; she said, speaking of last week&rsquo;s announcement from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel that he was reassigning administrative police positions to patrol the streets. &ldquo;But the police officers gonna come in contact with these same people and the only thing they gonna do is lock them up. For the most part, some are deserved. But then what? They didn&rsquo;t lock them up for life. They want to come back on the streets. Where are the jobs? Where are (sic) the training? Where are the opportunities?&rdquo;</p><p>For his part, Ford, the chairman of the committee, said he hopes to find ways to save the cash-strapped state money by cutting down on things like high recidivism rates in Illinois&rsquo; prisons.</p><p>No legislation has been assigned to the committee yet. House Republicans have not announced who from their caucus will serve on the Restorative Justice Committee.</p></p> Mon, 04 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/new-illinois-house-committee-investigate-all-elements-criminal-justice-system-105310 New law protects insured patients participating in clinical cancer trials http://www.wbez.org/story/new-law-protects-insured-patients-participating-clinical-cancer-trials-95216 <p><p>Illinois insurance agencies are now forbidden to deny health coverage to insured people participating in clinical cancer trials because of a new amendment to the state's Insurance Code.</p><p>Previously, companies could cancel an insured patient's medical coverage while that person receives experimental treatment despite being qualified.</p><p>Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) sponsored the measure.</p><p>"People were often faced with do they lose their insurance all together, or do they take part in a clinical trial that could save their lives," said Harris.</p><p>Harris said under the new law, the trial costs will be divided between the insurance company and the drug company running it.</p><p>The amendment passed both the House and Senate unanimously in 2011. It goes into effect on Jan. 1.</p></p> Sat, 31 Dec 2011 08:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/new-law-protects-insured-patients-participating-clinical-cancer-trials-95216 New Illinois law protects job applicants' credit reports http://www.wbez.org/story/credit-history/new-illinois-law-protects-job-applicants-credit-reports <p><p>A new law in Illinois prevents employers from looking up a job applicant&rsquo;s credit report, except in certain cases. Increasingly, employers have been looking up people&rsquo;s credit histories when they apply for a job. The new law in Illinois makes that illegal. Representative Greg Harris was one of the sponsors. He says in some cases, a person&rsquo;s credit history isn&rsquo;t relevant to their job.<br /><br />&quot;For instance if a person&rsquo;s going to go work in a warehouse, if they&rsquo;ve missed a mortgage payment, why should they not be able to bring home the paycheck for their family?&quot; Harris said.<br /><br />The law does make exceptions for banks, insurance companies and some government agencies. It also allows employers to consider credit history when hiring people for managerial positions. <br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 03 Jan 2011 06:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/credit-history/new-illinois-law-protects-job-applicants-credit-reports Illinois Senate approves civil unions bill http://www.wbez.org/story/civil-unions/civil-unions-bill-heads-illinois-senate <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/AP080506048216.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated At: 2:05pm on 12/01/2010 by City Room and Associated Press<br /></em></p><p>The Illinois Senate has approved civil unions, putting Illinois on the verge of granting official recognition to gay and lesbian couples.</p><p>The measure passed 32-24 Wednesday. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, a strong supporter. Civil unions would give gay couples many of the same rights as marriage - for instance, the power to make medical decisions for a seriously ill partner.</p><p>Critics say this would amount to same-sex marriage under a different name. Some senators argued the Legislature shouldn't be discussing civil unions when Illinois faces a massive budget deficit that should get lawmakers' full attention.</p><p>The House approved the measure Tuesday , which would apply to same sex and heterosexual couples.<br /><br />During the debate on the House floor, speakers sounded at times emotional and at times uncomfortable. State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Greenville, called civil unions a &quot;step down a slippery slope&quot; leading to same-sex marriage.<br /><br />&quot;And I just think that's wrong. I think it, I do,&quot; Stephens said. &quot;You might think I'm wrong in thinking that, but I believe that. Just call me an old-fashioned traditionalist.&quot;<br /><br />Some supporters of same-sex marriage consider civil unions an unacceptable half-measure, an opinion acknowledged by Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the legislation's sponsor. Harris argued the bill provides a &quot;fair, moderate center.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;It does not change the definition of marriage. It provides basic legal rights to our citizens,&quot; Harris said before the vote. &quot;It's a matter of fairness. It's a matter of respect. It's a matter of equality.&quot;<br /><br />Harris' bill received 61 votes in the House, just one more than was needed for passage.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said in an email that the bill will be called for vote in that chamber on Wednesday.</p><p>&quot;Cullerton hasn't made any roll call predictions,&quot; Rikeesha Phelon wrote. &quot;However, as a vocal supporter of equal rights for same sex couples, he is hopeful and optomistic that the measure will pass the Senate.&quot;</p><p>If it does, the bill will be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature. The Chicago Democrat has said he supports civil unions.</p></p> Wed, 01 Dec 2010 14:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/civil-unions/civil-unions-bill-heads-illinois-senate