House Executive Committee Approves Freedom to Marry Bill, Sending Legislation to Vote by Full House

SPRINGFIELD – February 26, 2013 – As support continues to build for legislation that would give gay and lesbian couples in Illinois the freedom to marry, the House Executive Committee passed Senate Bill 10 today, setting the stage for a vote by the full Illinois House of Representatives. Prior to today’s vote, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, told legislators that SB 10 “allows for justice and equality for all families, without creating a situation of separate but equal.”

“We stand united and in solidarity in affirming the principle of equal protection under the law for all citizens of the United States of America,” Rev. Dr. Moss said.  “We believe that the values that ought to inform our public engagement as residents of Illinois are the principles that unite us rather than the beliefs that distinguish us.”

Rev. Dr. Moss also praised the bill’s protections for religious freedom. “Members of the clergy or religious institutions are held legally harmless should they elect not to acknowledge any civil marriage,” he added. “The issue is not about theology, but it is about public policy that allows for equal protection under the law.”

“The momentum we are seeing on this legislation is truly inspiring,” said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), House sponsor of the bill, which is called the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.  “Illinois is very close to treating all of its families equally under the law.  I look forward to bringing this to a full vote in the House.”

The Committee’s vote came on the same day more than 75 nationally prominent Republicans — including former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman — signed a U.S. Supreme Court legal brief supporting the freedom to marry.

Crain’s/Ipsos poll released last week shows Illinoisans supporting marriage equality, with 50 percent in favor and only 29 percent opposed.  Of the 50 percent in support, 37 percent “strongly” support the freedom to marry, according to the poll.

Every major newspaper serving Illinois has endorsed the marriage equality bill, including theChicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Peoria Journal Star, theSpringfield Journal-Register, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  In its February 17th Sunday edition, the Daily Herald wrote, “the Illinois Senate has done its part to advance the notion of human rights in Illinois. Now it’s up to the state House.”

Fifty of Illinois’ most prominent business leaders and corporations have called on the General Assembly to pass the bill, as have nearly 300 clergy and religious leaders from a wide variety of faith traditions.  On Sunday, nearly two-dozen prominent Latino leaders announced their support in an open letter urging lawmakers to approve the legislation, stating “no member of anyone’s family, whether they’re gay or straight, should face discrimination when they hope to marry the person they love.”

Illinois Unites for Marriage – a coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois – is continuing its statewide campaign in support of the bill, marshaling support and urging allies to step up contacts with their legislators.  The coalition supporting the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples – already strong with business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American and Hispanic leaders – continues to grow.

Information about the legislation is available at www.illinoisunites.org, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard.

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For additional information, contact Eric Herman at 773.405.8124.