PI Original Ashlee Rezin Monday June 3rd, 2013, 3:49pm

Marriage Equality Advocates Disappointed: 'We Were Promised A Vote' (VIDEO)

Illinois’ gay rights advocates are saying lawmakers who failed to pass marriage equality in the state should “pay the political price.”

Illinois’ gay rights advocates are saying lawmakers who failed to pass marriage equality in the state should “pay the political price.”

After more than four months of negotiating, and with a gallery full of same-sex marriage supporters who flocked to Springfield in the hopes of witnessing a historical moment, the Illinois House adjourned Friday without voting on SB 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

Saying he’s “never been sadder,” the bill’s lead sponsor, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), tearfully announced his decision not to call legislation for a vote shortly after 7 p.m. Friday night. He told the chamber floor the decision was “mine and mine alone.”

Harris said he chose not to call the bill up for consideration because fellow lawmakers indicated they were not yet ready to cast a vote.

“A number of my colleagues were very concerned about misinformation and wanted to go back to their home districts to communicate with their constituents,” Harris told Progress Illinois.  

Several members of the frustrated LGBTQ community in Illinois have since criticized Harris for “betraying” same-sex couples seeking marriage equality.

“I think Harris abjectly broke his promise to his own community, and he should pay a political price for that,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network (GLN). “We were promised all different things, we were promised a vote.”

Thayer, who draped a rainbow flag from the balustrade and was consequently escorted from the Illinois House chamber on Thursday, helped organize an “emergency rally” on the corner of North Halsted and Roscoe Streets on Saturday evening.

Located in the heart of Chicago’s Boystown, the demonstration drew a despondent and unsatisfied crowd of nearly 100 demonstrators who braved thunderstorm warnings issued that night.

“I’m incredibly pissed that this is the outcome,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA). “Now is the time not for us to back down, now is the time for us to come back together and keep pushing ... We’re going to need to fight against the people that would have us be unequal.”

Harris responded by saying feelings of frustration were justified, but his goal remains “to make marriage equality the law of the land in Illinois.”

“I was incredibly frustrated and I still am today,” he said in an interview with Progress Illinois Monday. “But when you’re frustrated you need to channel that into doing the right thing for a victory.”

First introduced in January by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the Senate passed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act in February. After passing in the House Executive Committee that same month, the bill gained an abundance of support as advocates worked for more than 100 days in anticipation of a full House vote.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), Gov. Pat Quinn, State Reps. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) and Ed Sullivan Jr. (R-Mundelein), along with a plethora of members from the Illinois Democratic Party, endorsed the legislation.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago), who announced his support of the legislation just last week, said “justice has not been served.”

“We’ve got to keep fighting for what’s fair and right in this state,” he said. “But I couldn’t see another legislator that could handle this situation better than Representative Harris. I know the community is disappointed, but they have the right person handling the situation.”

Ford said he is confident the bill would pass eventually if the community continues along a path of advocacy.

During Saturday’s protest, a statement from Thayer, who was out of town and unable to attend, was read to the crowd. Thayer also holds House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) responsible for the bill’s failure.

"Anyone who knows anything about Illinois politics knows that Speaker Mike Madigan owns the House – if he had insisted on a positive vote from his caucus, it would have passed,” Thayer's statement read. “Speaker Madigan has repeatedly shoveled millions of tax dollars to his wealthy cronies, leaving the state's finances in a total mess, but when it comes to passing civil rights legislation, he refused to spend any political capital."

Although Madigan extended the approval deadline for the same-sex marriage bill until August 31, Thayer told Progress Illinois Madigan’s alleged lack of support was driven by “contempt” for the LGBTQ community.

The Illinois General Assembly is not scheduled to reconvene before October 22. But Gov. Pat Quinn could call lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session, during which SB 10 could be addressed. Quinn stated Friday that he planned to call lawmakers back to Springfield to pass pension reform legislation, which also did not get sent to his desk during the spring session.

Martinez predicted Madigan’s daughter, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, would lose support from Illinois’ LGBTQ community following Friday’s events. Saying “pocketbooks will close,” Martinez noted that the attorney general’s potential bid for governor may suffer as a result of the House’s failure to pass same-sex marriage legislation.

“People understand (Michael Madigan) is the one that is going to help her get elected if she does indeed run,” said Martinez. “I do think there is going to be a huge backlash from this.”

Here's more from Martinez:

Steve Brown, spokesman for the Illinois House Speaker, dismissed criticisms of Madigan as “juvenile comments on an important social issue.”

He said advocates who failed to reach skeptical lawmakers and constituents were “looking for someone to blame their failure on.”

“When they fail, they expect someone like Mike Madigan to go muscle people,” he said. “We have to keep working to get that bill passed ... People will want to work on building grassroots support in areas where there appear to be growing opposition.”

A February poll of 600 adult Illinoisans by Crain’s Chicago Business and Ipsos revealed marriage equality supporters outnumber those in opposition by a nearly two-to-one margin. Fifty percent of respondents said they support same-sex marriage, while 29 percent said they did not; 20 percent were undecided. Majority of the opposition was attributed to religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, Lee and David Neubecker sat in the gallery more than 10 hours Friday waiting for the bill to be called for a vote. The couple of 13 years adopted children five years ago and said their daughter and son, ages 10 and nine respectively, cried themselves to sleep after leaving the Statehouse.

The couple planned to get married immediately following the law's enactment.

“It was cruel,” said David, 44, with tears in his eyes. “We expect our legislators to call a vote as soon as they get back in session, they need to have respect for the families and have a scheduled up-or-down vote so we at least get a chance.”

Lee, 40, said he expected politicians to take a stand. Instead, he said, they sent a “terrible” message to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in March on two cases that challenge the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, which both ban same-sex marriage.

“We needed our legislators to step in and back us up,” he said. “Just like we need the courts to back us up, but that didn’t happen.”

Agreeing with Lee, Thayer said Illinois becoming the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage could have triggered a positive response from the court.

“What the Illinois Democrats have done to us is such an epic failure,” he said. “We could’ve told the U.S. Supreme Court we embrace marriage equality, but due to corrupt Illinois politics we failed to do that.”

The Supreme Court could announce decisions on the cases sometime this month.

Here’s more from Lee and David Neubecker as they addressed the crowd at Saturday’s protest and discussed the significance of marriage equality for their family. Lee said their daughter led the charge for supporting marriage equality in their family, as she was concerned her parents would break up without a marriage certificate:

“Many legislators are going to have to answer to our community,” said David, who added he and Lee would not get a civil union because “it is less dignified.”

Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011, granting same-sex couples some of the same rights and benefits granted to married couples in the state. But civil unions do not provide rights and benefits under federal law, unlike opposite-sex marriages.

“So many politicians do not understand how important this bill is,” he added. “Civil unions are not enough, it doesn’t make our children feel safe, it doesn’t provide us with the benefits we’re entitled to as citizens and it doesn’t make our families feel secure.”

Lee holds out hope that Rep. Harris will “follow through” for the community.

“We’re broken hearted, but it’s not over.”

Comments

Login or register to post comments

A vote would have allowed us voters to identify the "democratic" lawmakers who refused to support this issue. Madigan denied us that right so he could protect the weasels in the Illinois Dem Party who are bigots. Now THAT is "juvenile"! Shame, shame.

Recent content

Thu
7.24.14
Wed
7.23.14
Tue
7.22.14
Mon
7.21.14