WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama personally prodded Illinois state House members to vote for a gay marriage bill Wednesday night at a fund-raiser in Chicago as the fate of the measure pending in Springfield is uncertain.
Last December, Obama took the rare step of weighing in on a state issue through a statement urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state at a time lawmakers were taking up the issue in Springfield.
On Wednesday night, Obama made the pitch personally.
"America is probably more tolerant, more accepting of difference than any time in our history. Obviously, you've got an African American President, a former and soon to be again female Speaker of the House. The work that we did together to end "don't ask, don't tell" is something that I could not be prouder of. But we also know that there's still a lot of people who are excluded in our society and we've got more work to do," Obama said.
"Here in Illinois, we've got a vote on same-sex marriage that's going to be coming up in the state legislature. And I just want to say for the record it's something that I deeply support. I wrestled with this for a long time and I am absolutely convinced it is the right thing to do. And we have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception," Obama said.
Obama's personal appeal on Wednesday underscores the statement released by the White House last December, when Obama urged Illinois to legalize gay marriage
"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times in December.
"As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the president still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally," Inouye said.
Obama made the comment about gay marriage during an event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the home of long-time supporters Bettylu and Paul Saltzman.