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Same-sex marriage: Tense crowd awaits vote

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Months of lobbying, robo-calls, polls and other kinds of wooing have led us to the final hours of the session. With dozens of people waiting in the Illinois House gallery, there's a large question looming: Will the Illinois House call same-sex marriage for a vote?

Reporters are asking lawmakers; lawmakers are asking reporters. Lobbyists and advocates are seated outside the Speaker's office, hands folded in laps or legs bouncing.

The House gallery, meanwhile, is teeming with people here to watch the debate. For the last several hours, people are snaking down the steps in line, hoping someone will vacate a seat and let them in.

Meanwhile, there's talk that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is making behind-the-scenes calls to move some votes.

If Illinois is to pass same-sex marriage legislation, it will become the 13th state to do so.

Opposition has not been quiet, including from a portion of the African American community. Rev. James Meeks has recorded two rounds of robo-calls urging a "no" vote on the issue.

Sponsor Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has said he believes the bill has enough support to pass. He needs 60 votes. Just two Republicans are publicly on board with voting yes.

168231767_38966577.JPGFormer U.S. President Bill Clinton, pictured here during a May 7 speech in Washington, D.C., urged the Illinois House Tuesday to legalize same-sex marriage. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

SPRINGFIELD-Former President Bill Clinton Tuesday joined Illinois' push to legalize gay marriage, becoming the most influential voice to date to urge the Illinois House to pass stalled legislation.

"Since the days of Abraham Lincoln, Illinois has stood for the proposition that all citizens should be treated equally under the law," President Clinton said in a prepared statement.

"Lincoln himself came to Springfield in search of opportunity, and he dedicated his life to securing equal opportunity for all citizens. I believe that for Illinois and for our nation as a whole, in the 21st century that must include marriage equality," the 42nd president said.

While it appeared he was building some support among party members, state Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) is pulling his name out of the running for the next Illinois GOP chairman.

Sandack held the lead in an unofficial poll posted on this blog. He is one of two Illinois House Republicans who has announced he would support a gay marriage bill when it is called for a vote.

"After much contemplation and discussion with several Republican activists, I am withdrawing my name from future consideration," Sandack said in a statement. I look forward to working hard with the new chairman and together focusing on rebuilding a Republican brand. As I have stated several times, we must be more inclusive to revive and revitalize our party."

So who does that leave in the running?

  • Jack Dorgan from the Northwest suburbs.
  • Angel Garcia from Cook County -- President of Chicago Young Republicans
  • Jim Nalepa
  • Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider
  • Mark Shaw Lake County lawyer active in politics up North.
  • Don Tracy brother-in-law to Jil Tracy, a state rep from Quincy.
  • Joe Walsh one-term suburban Tea Party Congressman
  • Lori Yokoyama - failed Cook County State's Attorney candidate.

Julian Bond and former Chicago Bear Brendon Ayanbadejo have released robocall supporting gay marriage legislation in Illinois. More details on the calls here.

The Rev. James Meeks recorded calls urging the black vote to come out against a gay marriage measure.

Former Chicago Bear Brendon Ayanbadejo and civil rights leader Julian Bond have recorded robocalls in support of gay marriage in Illinois. Here is Ayanbadejo's recording.

More details.

The Rev. James Meeks released a robocall urging the black community in Illinois to come out against gay marriage.


The state's top-ranking Republican made clear Tuesday his support was unwavering for the outgoing Illinois party chairman who controversially backed same sex marriage.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill) thanked Brady for his years of service to the Republican state party.
"Whether as a federal prosecutor or leading the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady has spent the last several years selflessly serving his community and party and I thank him for his service," Kirk said in a statement today.
Pat Brady announced Tuesday morning he was stepping down from the helm of the GOP, in part
Brady said his departure had several tenets to it but chief among them, he wanted to scale back to spend more time with his wife who is battling cancer.
"I respect and understand Pat's decision to spend more time with his wife Julie during this difficult time in their lives," Kirk said. "Julie is a fighter and I will continue to pray for her, Pat and the kids as they move forward."
Brady had rankled some conservatives in the party when he announced he was backing same sex marriage. Kirk later announced his own support for same sex marriage.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday announced via his website that he would support same-sex marriage - the second Senate Republican to do so. From Kirk's statement:

When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others.

Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back-- government has no place in the middle.

Kirk's endorsement comes at a critical time in both the national debate as well as in Illinois. While the Illinois Senate passed a measure supporting same sex marriage on Valentine's Day, the Illinois House went on spring break before calling it for a vote.

Last week, sources told the Sun-Times that several state House Republicans were poised to support the measure, hoping in part, not to make the issue define the state Republican party. A blow-up over the issue happened earlier this year when state Sen. Jim Oberweis attempted to oust the state party chairman, Pat Brady, since he backed gay marriage.

Kirk, a moderate Republican, came to Brady's defense, as did other GOP stalwarts.

In his Senate campaign against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, however, Kirk opposed gay marriage. At a debate Oct. 19, 2010, Kirk said: "I -- I oppose gay marriage, and -- I support civil unions. But I also don't think we should have a federal takeover of all marriage law in the United States. I think the federal government is already trying to take over too much." Full transcript of the Senate debate.

Kirk previously voted to end the policy barring gays from openly serving in the military, known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He's a lead co-sponsor of a bill to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and has opposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Kirk is Illinois' ranking Republican lawmaker.

Natasha Korecki, AP contributing

In a new You Tube video released today, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton releases a pitch for gay rights, saying America is at its best when it embraces all of its people.

"Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights," Clinton said.

The video only further fuels speculation that Clinton is positioning herself for a future run for the presidency.

Details: More on the video announcement.

The Rev. James Meeks speaks during a candidate forum during his mayoral run in 2010. | Sun-Times file

SPRINGFIELD-With a vote looming in the Illinois House, Rev. James Meeks is taking a stand against same-sex marriage by sending an "emergency message" to Illinois households.

Meeks, pastor of Salem Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side and former state senator, said the pre-recorded call that reached roughly 200,000 households in 14 legislative districts beginning Friday was sent mostly to African-Americans.

"Please listen closely," the message began. "Your state representative in Springfield is under serious pressure to redefine marriage in Illinois. If marriage between one man and one woman is redefined to add same-sex marriage, our family structure, as we know it, is in serious jeopardy.

"While being a member of the General Assembly for the last 10 years, I maintained the fact that this decision is too big for 177 people to make. If we are going to change Illinois, as we know it on such a broad scale, then your voice and input are very much needed."

AP Photo/Seth Perlman

SPRINGFIELD-Illinois moved a step closer Thursday to becoming the 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry as the state Senate approved legalizing gay marriage in a vote one backer described as "one for the history books."

"It is time Illinois get rid of its second-class status for a segment of our residents and allow everyone the opportunity to reap the emotional, social and economic benefits and obligations of marriage," said state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the bill's chief Senate sponsor.

Steans' legislation passed the Senate 34-21 vote, with two present votes, and now moves to the House.

After a tearful closing statement by Steans, applause erupted in the chamber the moment the roll call surpassed the necessary 30 votes it needed to move to the House.

But her bill was decried by a mostly unified Republican front as an affront to the Bible.

"We are knocking down one of the central foundations of society with this bill," said state Sen. Dale Bivins (R-Dixon), a "no" vote who cited poet Robert Frost and the Scriptures in pushing the bill's defeat.

"From the Old Testament to the New, there's nothing that supports same-sex marriage," he said.