Marriage Fairness Act meets continued opposition in Illinois

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was introduced last week by Illinois Reps. Greg Harris, D-13, Deborah Mell, D-40 and Kelly Cassidy, D-14 in the wake of the federal appeals court ruling that California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage in the state, was unconstitutional. The act would legalize gay marriage; currently, only civil unions are allowed as of June 2011.

Along with California, Illinois has also had its share of battles in trying to allow same-sex marriage in the state. The most recent efforts have been lead by Harris, who has been the co-sponsor of the same-sex and civil union bills in the state of Illinois.

Excluding the Religious Freedom-Marriage Act, none of the House bills Harris introduced made it past the Rules Committee in the House. Harris said the main point of introducing these bills was to build awareness among his colleagues on the issue of same-sex marriage. Harris added a lot of work needs to be done in order for this new bill to gain some traction within districts across the state.

“There’s probably a lot of districts where they don’t hear a lot (about marriage equality) from constituents,” Harris said. “We need to be sure that they understand the technicalities of the issues and also that it’s very important to families.”

Part of the reason why the House bills haven’t been passed by the Rules Committee is because the bills’ sponsors didn’t think they were ready to go “prime time,” said Barbara Flynn Currie, D-25, the Rules Committee chairperson. She added that she doubts the newly introduced same-sex marriage bill will be ready this time around as well, unless Harris has enough support. Currie said regardless she would be in support of this bill.

Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, has been a co-sponsor of civil union bills in the past and voted for the civil union bill in the senate. She said she voted for the civil union bill “because it affords the same protections and privileges to parties in civil unions as to those in Illinois recognized by law as spouses.”

The bill hasn’t been signed on to a committee yet, but if the bill is assigned to the Humane Services Committee, of which Jakobsson is the chair person, she said she will try to vote to get it out of committee.

Although same-sex marriage and civil union bills have seen support from many politicians, not all politicians agree with the policies contained in these bills. Dan Brady, R-88, voted against the civil union bill. Brady said his concern was the state had a hard time paying health insurance to couples at the time. By adding on another person through same-sex union, it would add more financial strain on the government, he said.

“I don’t know why we’re creating something that we simply can’t pay for,” Brady said. “I think it’s something that’s wrong to do to those civil union couples.”

Mike Bost, R-115, also voted against the civil union bill. Bost said he was against the stipulations that came along with this bill, such as forcing religious adoption agencies to allow people in same-sex unions adopt children, which is against their religious beliefs. Also Bost said he believes that marriage should be only between a man and woman.

“A lot of the language that’s put into a lot of these bill is for special rights not legal rights,” Bost said.