Teens reach out to community in support of same-sex marriage bill

For Havah Berg, senior at University High School in Urbana, the Illinois General Assembly’s same-sex marriage bill means the possibility of a more secure future for her two mothers.

Without the bill, a simple family road trip can be a cause for anxiety, Berg said. In the instance of an injury within the family, dealing with health care benefits and hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples could become problematic.

“The passing of this bill will mean great things in terms of family security and well-being,” Berg said. “Having legal security makes us feel safer and more secure.”

Planned Parenthood teamed with the coalition Illinois Unites for Marriage to host a phone bank event last night in an effort to reach out to state district representatives that do not support the same-sex marriage bill, SB10. The phone bank night was part of a statewide campaign throughout Illinois, said Drew Duzinskas, Illinois Unites for Marriage representative.

“A lot of people in the state have the misconception that civil unions should be just as good and have the appropriate benefits,” Berg said. “But there are 1,100 legal rights that married couples have, like filing joint taxes, which civil unions do not adequately provide.”

Representing the Champaign-Urbana community, State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, co-sponsors the bill. At the event, participants brought their laptops and cell phones to reach out to the rest of the state.

“I really enjoy showing the teens that they have power in their own communities,” said Corbin Knight-Dixon, Planned Parenthood lead outreach and education coordinator. “They have the power to make a change and are able to educate others on what they love and care about.”

Berg and other members of the Planned Parenthood Teen Awareness Group called registered voters within the district and urged them to leave voicemail messages with State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who has yet to vote ‘yes’ toward SB10.

“We hope for her to, over time, have thousands of messages on her voicemail,” Duzinskas said. “It’s been a distinct honor to work with the LGBTQ community and allies to make history.”

Planned Parenthood partnered with Illinois Unites for Marriage after the marriage equality bill did not pass in February, Knight-Dixon said.

“They have been an amazing partner in our coalition and have provided us great technology and volunteers,” Duzinskas said.

The organization has hosted multiple phone banks, canvassing events and rallies.

“I feel strongly for everyone in the entire country to have the same benefits. I do not believe your zip code should define who you are able to marry,” Berg said. “Being youths and being able to help out on a state legislative level is a really great feeling.”

Over the summer, the Defense of Marriage Act removed the provision of marriage between only man and woman, which allows federal benefits to couples who are legally married in states that permit same-sex marriage.

Illinois currently permits civil unions of same-sex couples but has not legalized marriage for them. On Sept. 27, Cook County Circuit Judge Sophia Hall ruled that a lawsuit seeking to overturn the current ban on gay marriage can move forward in court.

Megan can be reached at [email protected]