To quote my good friend and our outstanding State Senator Heather Steans, “It’s a good day for justice and equal rights.”
In ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8 case it was an historic day for the United States. When even a conservative Supreme Court can strike down DOMA the future is clear. Marriage Equality is on the way. The simple question is, since it has now become a states right matter is how long will it take Illinois to catch up with the rest of the nation’s leaders in this area.
Unfortunately, the decisions don't guarantee anything here in Illinois. The court's not going to make this easy. What we have is the continuing political fight over the issue. If gay people want to get married in Illinois, they need to convince the state House of Representatives to pass the bill already passed by the Senate. The Governor is onboard and will sign.
This is important for many reasons. As Representative Greg Harris, lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the House said in an interview with Crain’s Chicago Business, “The decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act made it clear that all kinds of important benefits are at stake: Society Security survivors benefits, the ability to file a joint income tax return with one's spouse, getting health insurance on a partner's policy without having to declare it as extra income. More than 1,000 provisions in federal law that cover money, discrimination law, immigration and other matters. In Illinois, some "second class" citizens don't get those benefits. But after today, that's only because Illinois has not legalized same-sex marriage, something the Supreme Court indicated it is not going to do for any state, at least not now.”
So what can you do to help our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community? Start by making certain that your own State Senator and State Representative are supporters. In the 49th Ward we are exceptionally well represented by Sen. Steans and our State Representative Kelly Cassidy, but some of you live outside the ward so make sure. Secondly, call the Speaker’s Office, Rep. Michael Madigan, and ask him to support the bill with his members. As we all know he is powerful and can influence the outcome of many bills. Finally, reach out to people who do not live in an area as fortunate as we live in. Educate them on the issue, and then ask them to call their own Senators and Representatives. To pass stronger support is needed. The bill is still short votes. Republicans and the African-American Caucus are two place to pick up potential voters.
The work of the Supreme Court left a clear path for us. We know what must be done. It is too early to celebrate with so much left to do. Let’s get to work and eliminate the two tiered marriage system in Illinois and recognize that two partners should have the right and the responsibilities of being married.