Illinois lawmakers file bill for marriage equality

Illinois lawmakers have filed to legalize same-sex marriage, a day after Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in California.

State Reps. Greg Harris, Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy filed House Bill 5170, also known as the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” on Wednesday afternoon. If passed, the law would not only allow gay marriage, but would also allow those who are already domestic partners to transition into marriage.

Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, said that although Illinois legalized civil unions last year, it was not enough.

“It’s very exciting to see this as the next step in the relationship recognition for same-sex couples,” Martinez said. “Although we have a lot of work ahead, it’s very exciting that with the ruling in California yesterday, today in Illinois we’re actually able to start advancing this next major goal for the community.”

Leslie Morrow, director of the LGBT Resource Center, agreed that legalizing civil unions was a good starting point, but said equality still hasn’t been reached.

“While civil unions is a great step, it still relegates same-sex couples and unions to a lower status,” Morrow said. “For some, it’s a matter of semantics. For others, calling it a marriage means so much more.”

Harris, D-Chicago, said community support is necessary for the bill to be passed.

“The people need to be very proactive in supporting equality,” Harris said. “They don’t call it a struggle for equal rights for no reason. People who believe in equal treatment under the law need to stand up and make their voices heard.”