Illinois is in the final stretch down a gay marriage path already charted in nine other states.
But the bill faces a different obstacle than it has elsewhere. In Illinois’ Democrat-dominated legislature, it will be socially conservative Democrats who stand in the way.
The bill already survived a minority of conservative Illinois Republican lawmakers making an Alamo-like last stand to defend a position most Illinoisans have abandoned.
Two new polls show solid support for gay marriage. A Crain’s/Ispos poll found 50 percent of Illinois adults supporting the gay marriage bill. Just 29 percent were opposed, with 20 percent unsure. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Poll charts 45.5 percent support, and just 20 percent opposed. The Simon poll shows Illinois support building gradually since 2010.
So, most Illinoisans seem ready to live in the 10th gay marriage state.
The bill passed the Senate Feb. 14 on a 34-21 vote, including just one GOP vote in favor. The bill made it through the House Executive Committee 6-5 and now moves to the full House.
Democrats hold 71 of the 118 seats in the House. So, Illinois gay marriage advocates should be celebrating.
But they’re not.
The House committee action included one “no” vote by Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr., of East St. Louis. Another House Executive Committee Democrat, Rep. Luis Arroyo, of Chicago, voted “yes” in committee but says he’ll oppose it because of personal religious concerns.
Gov. Pat Quinn acknowledged to Quad-City Times Springfield bureau reporter Kurt Erickson on Monday “there’s still persuasion to do in the House.” The governor has been less than persuasive with his own party on many issues.
The party labels might be different in Illinois’ gay marriage debate, but the issue is exactly the same: A handful of lawmakers wants to use Illinois law to impose their faith choices on others.
Those lawmakers are entitled — legally protected, actually — to believe whatever they like about gay people and their relationships. But using state law to forbid individuals’ life-long commitments solely on their sexual preference remains discrimination, pure and simple. Illinois law is clear: You can’t hire, fire, promote, include or exclude based on sexual preference.
The question facing those reluctant Illinois lawmakers is not about their own personal beliefs on gay marriage. It is about their personal beliefs on discrimination. Which law-abiding groups do they purposely want to exclude under state law?