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As he announced his run for governor or this week, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner said the best way to deal with the same-sex marriage question is by taking it out of the Legislature and putting the question to voters.

There's a bit of a problem with going that route, gay rights activists say.

It would, in effect, do nothing.

"The only way there can be a ballot initiative is an advisory referendum, which would not be binding," said Camilla Taylor, senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal, which has been in the thick of the legal and legislative battles to legalize same sex marriage. "It's simply a statement of desire on the part of the voters for the Legislature to do something."

Which puts the matter right back in the Legislature's ball park.

There is a way to amend the constitution. That too, requires action by the General Assembly.

"The only way to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot is by passing both houses with a 3/5 majority," Taylor said. If that passed both houses by a supermajority it then would go to voters.
That's not what gay rights groups are seeking. They are arguing in court (the legal battle) that the Illinois constitution already can be interpreted as allowing for same sex marriage. The group, part of a coalition of groups to change the law, is also fighting to repeal a 1996 law that banned same-sex marriage.
"There is no need to amend the Illinois constitution from our perspective," she said.

Clearly hoping to sidestep a dust-up with the far right of his party, Rauner would not say where he personally stands on the same sex marriage debate.
"My view is irrelevant," Rauner told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. "Why does that matter? There are many issues that folks can disagree about. It's OK. I would like the Republican family as the big family. We can disagree. We can have some fights, that's OK. And stay unified on the most critical issues."


Gov. Pat Quinn said there's a sure way to get a same sex marriage bill to pass -- call it for a vote.

"You gotta have a vote," Quinn said in remarks before the Sun-Times Editorial Board. "They should go see the movie 'Lincoln' and watch a vote."

Quinn pointed to several states that have voted the same measure into law since the Illinois Senate passed the measure in February.

"There's only one way to do it and that's call the vote in the next 11 days," Quinn said.

Quinn said despite all the behind-the-scenes roll calls, he's confident the 60 needed votes are there some people just don't want to publicize it before hand.

"They don't want to do that but when the moment comes ... I'm very confident if we have that vote, we'll get 60 votes," Quinn. "It's a vote for history."

Illinois Unites rallies around outgoing GOP Chair

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"Under Pat Brady's leadership, the Republican Party has stayed focused on its core value: that government should respect people's private lives. And I am proud of his support of the freedom to marry. I hope that even after his departure, the party leaders continue that support for the freedom to marry - or else the party is going to be irrelevant for the future generation of voters," Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois said in a statement. "Pat Brady supported all Illinois families with his endorsement of the freedom to marry, and now we honor his decision to resign to focus on his family, and we wish them all the best."

Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady to resign Tuesday

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He went out on a limb in support of gay marriage.
Now, Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady is expected to step down on Tuesday, according to a close friend and colleague.
"I'm saddened. Pat has been a dear friend of mine for years," said Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin. Durkin (R-Westchester) said he and Brady are 20-year friends; having worked together at 26th and California as young assistant state's attorneys. He said Brady told him of his intentions earlier on Monday.
Brady is expected to announce his resignation Tuesday morning in a news release. He could not be reached for comment.
"He's a fearless advocate for the Republican party. He's raised more money than any other chairman has raised in my lifetime," Durkin said. "He took on the Democratic party like no other Chairman has in my lifetime."
Brady caused a hub-bub within the Republican ranks after he came out in support of gay marriage. Conservative Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) was the chief architect behind attempts to oust Brady. Those attempts, ultimately fell short, without enough Republican backing to dethrone Brady and high-ranking GOP members -- including U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk -- coming to his defense. Oberweis has told the Sun-Times that his opposition to Brady was not due to Brady's support for gay marriage, but because Brady on his own took a position against the party platform.
For weeks, Brady had been expected to step down on his own terms.
"Pat is leaving on terms that he's imposed upon himself," said Durkin. He's got a family. He wants to spend more time and take care of his family."
Durkin wanted to make one last point: "He did not do this to advance a political career for himself," he said. "I hope people will thank him and appreciate the good things he's done. Pat is not afraid to speak up but nobody's going to bully him either."
The next big question is who will replace Brady and help lead a Republican party that has barely limped through the last couple elections.
One name that's surfaced Monday night is Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider of Bartlett.


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Rev. James Meeks. | Sun-Times file

Fearing the same sex marriage bill could be called for a vote in the Illinois House soon, African-American Clergy Coalition (AACC) today launched another round of Robo Calls featuring a 40-second message from the Pastor James Meeks.

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Meeks urges constituents to call members of the black caucus in the Illinois House and urge a vote against the bill, which redefines marriage in Illinois to between two people instead of a man and a woman.

"The AACC has begun distributing fliers to Cook County African American Churches," a release from the AACC said today. "African American Clergymen have now taken the AACC flier and began instructing their Congregations to call their legislators."

The fliers contain a list of African American House members with their phone numbers.

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Rhode Island state Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, center, reacts seconds after the state senate passed a same-sex marriage bill at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I., Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Nesselbush was the main sponsor of the bill. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Same sex marriage advocates had been pushing for Illinois to be the 10th state to legalize same sex marriage.

But as Illinois Republican in-fighting and consternation within the black caucus put the brakes on -- at least temporarily -- same sex marriage legislation in the Illinois Legislature, Rhode Island came up with a surprise this week.

The New England state is likely to snag the recognition as being the 10th state to pass the measure after a bill legalizing same sex marriage advanced out of both houses. On Wednesday, the Rhode Island senate passed the measure with each of its Republican members voting in favor of it. It goes back to the house because of some changes, but ultimately a vote on May 2 is anticipated to send the bill to the governor, who said he would sign it.

"We celebrate this victory and applaud the state of Rhode Island for taking this step toward treating all families equally under the law," said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said in a statement. Harris is the chief House sponsor of the Illinois marriage bill, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

Same sex marriage advocates say they believe they are closer to getting the 60 necessary votes to pass the matter out of the Illinois House. The senate approved the measure on Valentine's Day.

Those in opposition, however, continue to push back.

Robert Gilligan, Executive Director for the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said that Rhode Island's legislation used much clearer language that would protect religious institutions from having to conform with the law. Gilligan said he wasn't confident that current Illinois language would protect Catholic schools, for instance, from having to conform with the proposed law.

"Let's make it clear, let's not use descriptors," Gilligan told the Sun-Times. "If you really, really want to protect us on these issues, let's just make it clear."

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When Kathy Betts sent an email to her state representative asking him to support gay marriage, she said she was floored by his response.
"I was offended. I was speechless. I felt belittled," Betts, 38, told the Sun-Times. "It was the slippery slope argument."

The slippery slope argument it was, a contrite-sounding state Rep. Tom Morrison told the Sun-Times. Morrison, a conservative from Palatine who has been open about his opposition to gay marriage, said he should have been more careful in responding. But he didn't mean what she thought he did.

What he wrote, what she was so offended by, was this: "Could a man marry a consenting 9-year old girl? Why not? To refuse them would be discrimination. Again, where would you draw the line?"

Was he equating same-sex marriage with statuatory rape? "No, no, not at all," Morrison told the Sun-Times in an interview. "Am I imperfect in my wording? Yeah, if I could rewrite an email, if I knew that it would be offensive, yeah. I'm opposed to the redefinition of marriage."

Betts, who lives in Palatine, and is gay, said she reached out to Morrison in an email to ask him why he was opposed to same sex marriage.

"I was asking him to vote on the side of equality and not continue discrimination against gay marriage. I shared a story of one of my friends who talked about her caretaker for her daughter, standing up in her church and speaking up," Betts told the Sun-Times.

When she read the part about a man marrying a 9-year-old girl she said she found it offensive.
"That's not what straight couples have right now, I just want what straight couples have now."
Betts and her girlfriend have been together for nine years, she said.

As of Thursday night, she was still thinking about how to respond to Morrison, she said. She said she was thinking of writing up something comparing "the fight that African Americans had with interracial relationships or any race for that matter."

After the Sun-Times brought the issue to Morrison's attention, he sent Betts a follow-up email apologizing to her and offering to sit down and discuss the issue.

Morrison said he gets thousands of emails and he tries his best to reply to them and when he does, he tries to be respectful and make clear that he's a person, just like the person with whom he's speaking.

"We happen to live three blocks apart, I just try to establish that look: I'm a real person, and I know you're a real person. We can have a real discussion without blasting each other. I do whatever I can to say, look, we may disagree but we can respect each other," Morrison said.

Here's a copy of the email that both Betts and Morrison confirmed was exchanged.


Dear Kathleen,
Thank you for writing to me. We're fairly close neighbors, and I pass your home frequently on the way to mine. Anyway, I apologize for the slow response to your note.
I would simply ask you this: if you are for the re-definition of marriage to remove the gender distinction of one male and one female, then where would you draw the line? If one male and one female is discriminatory, then isn't limitation of marriage to just two people discriminatory, too? There are men who would like to marry two or more consenting females. Would you define their relationship as marriage, too? Could a man marry a consenting 9-year old girl? Why not? To refuse them would be discrimination. Again, where would you draw the line?
If you say a man and a 9-year old girl in marriage is absurd, then I would point out that only 20 years ago or so it would have been considered absurd that two men or two women could marry.
Sincerely,

Tom Morrison
State Representative - District 54


The NAACP came out today in support of gay marriage in Illinois with the Illinois State Conference President George P. Mitchell noting: "The NAACP was founded 104 years ago in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield."

The national organization came out in favor of gay marriage about a year ago. Since then, the NAACP has worked in Maryland, Florida and North Carolina as well as Delaware.

"We think there is a state component to all of this," spokesman Derek Turner said.

In Illinois, the black caucus could be influential on the direction of the issue still before the Illinois General Assembly.
"We work with legislators in the black caucus generally on issues," Turner said.

Mitchell noted in a prepared release today that the group's "bedrock commitment" to civil rights, includes marriage equality.
"The fight for freedom and equality encompasses all mankind," he said.


Audio courtesy of Illinois Radio Network

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said on Tuesday that the movie "Lincoln" helped persuade him to support gay marriage but he still believes it should remain a state issue.

In an interview with Illinois Radio Network, the Republican who made national headlines today by becoming the second U.S. Senate Republican to change his stance and support same sex marriage, explained that he saw parallels between freedoms that Abraham Lincoln fought for and gay rights issues.

"I must say I was pretty influenced by the latest movie by Steven Spielberg about Abraham Lincoln. You just think as a Republican leader, my job is to make sure that each generation is more free and has more dignity as an individual which is a unique gift of the United states to the world. The thought of treating a whole bunch of people just because of who they love differently is in my view against that Lincoln tradition, which was brought so well to life by the movie," Kirk said, according to audio of the interview IRN provided to the Sun-Times.

"I thought the country was ready for it," Kirk said. "The gay community is larger than it ever has been before. And it's not in the 1950s closet, so most of of us have gay acquaintances at work or at church and we know them. And the thought of discriminating against our own friends and coworkers is an anathema to me."

As for whether same sex marriage could become legal in Illinois, Kirk gave a yes.
"I think from what I've seen in my talks with Chris Radogno, it would appear that it's coming soon," he said in the radio interview. "I do prefer states doing this. I would hope we would restrain our appetite for power in Washington and not take over marriage law for the whole country."

"Modern Family" star and gay-marriage advocate explains to Chicago Sun-Times Springfield bureau chief Dave McKinney why he came to Springfield Thursday with his fiance, Justin Mikita, to lobby the Senate to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.


UPDATE

Cullerton's office: no senate floor votes today on gun ban or gay marriage

Here are ongoing updates from McKinney (@davemckinney123) via Twitter.