Gay Marriage | Greg Harris | Illinois | News | Pat Quinn

Why Did the Illinois Marriage Equality Vote Fizzle? — VIDEO


So why did a promised marriage equality vote in Illinois fail to happen? The finger-pointing has begun, big time.

As reported by Towleroad last night, after weeks of lobbying and support from President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and months of work from advocates, a tearful Rep. Greg Harris made an emotional announcement that a promised vote on marriage equality would not happen because certain lawmakers wanted more time.

The Chicago Phoenix reports that as many as 12 "yes" votes fell off the bill in its final hours.

ThayerThe Phoenix has activist Andy Thayer laying blame on Speaker Mike Madigan...

Andy Thayer, an LGBT rights activist and co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, followed through on promises to “deliver the failure directly to the doorstep of Mike Madigan.” Madigan oversees the 71-seat majority of Democrats in the House and was largely blamed for delaying the vote leading up to Friday, and now, the failure this session.

“House Speaker Mike Madigan, the de facto leader of the Illinois Democratic Party, is responsible for this abject betrayal,” Thayer said. “Anyone who knows anything about Illinois politics knows that Speaker Mike Madigan owns the House – if he had insisted on a positive vote from his caucus, it would have passed.

And local newspaper mogul Fred Eychaner...

“This failure can be put right on Fred Eychaner’s porch, right there, because he thought that having high-priced, professional lobbyists was more important than having our community speak for itself and fight for itself,” said Rick Garcia, a longtime LGBT rights activist and policy director at The Civil Rights Agenda.

“I am absolutely pissed off,” Garcia said. “It was insulting to have all of the families sit there and not call it for a vote. Number two, we need a sponsor who is going to fight for us, not just someone who will do the bidding of multibillionaire funders.”

Thayer, a longtime Chicago activist, was reportedly escorted from the House chamber yesterday after draping a rainbow flag over the balcony.

QuinnThe Chicago Tribune reports that lack of outreach to minority lawmakers and repeated hounding from Governor Pat Quinn for a vote were partially to blame:

Harris said efforts weren't helped by Quinn's repeated demands to call the bill in recent weeks. Quinn insisted there were enough votes to pass the bill, a situation Harris noted could peel votes off if lawmakers felt their "yes" wasn't needed to get the measure over the top.

Other gay rights advocates contended Harris didn't do enough to reach out to minority lawmakers during the negotiation process, noting that African-American and Latino lawmakers were heavily targeted by the Roman Catholic Church and conservative black church groups opposed to gay marriage.

"This was a recipe for disaster from the beginning, because when Rep. Harris introduced the bill, there were no African-American or Latino co-sponsors on it," said Rick Garcia, political director of the Civil Rights Agenda. "And the problem we have now was among the black caucus."

But Democratic Rep. Ken Dunkin, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the blame shouldn't fall on a bloc of 20 legislators, arguing that more support must come from Downstate, rural and suburban lawmakers.

Thayer appears to agree with Dunkin:

Don’t blame the Black Caucus. The Black Caucus has always been with us and so have the Latinos,” Garcia said. “They are just using the black people as an excuse.”

Immediately after the vote, two members of the Black Caucus — Rep. LaShawn Ford and Rep. Ken Dunkin — rejected the notion that its 20 members should be held responsible for the inaction. Both lawmakers supported the bill, and Dunkin signed on as a co-sponsor.

In a video shot shortly after the vote, Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim asks openly gay Harris if he feels like it was a choice between his community and his colleagues "to give them cover" for this.


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  1. I have to say, Harris looks kind of shifty/nervous in that video. I think there is a lot more to this vote than meets the eye. i think the black caucus was set up to take the fall over the lack of a vote. But if the head of the caucus thought they should have brought it to a vote, it doesn't really seem like it (he would know his own caucus members between than Harris or the speaker). Some are saying since the speaker's daughter is running for governor, the speaker is trying to take away victories from Governor Quinn. And Harris directly blamed Quinn for calling for a vote. Interesting.

    Posted by: KT | Jun 1, 2013 11:52:07 AM

  2. I'd rather risk losing a vote to find out exactly who our friends and allies are, and who we should be lobbying or voting out of office.

    Posted by: John B. | Jun 1, 2013 12:03:30 PM

  3. Illinois politics are an embarrassment overall. We shouldn't be surprised this bill went down the way it did.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Jun 1, 2013 12:06:10 PM

  4. Now we know who to blame but the black caucus will still be railroaded.

    Posted by: Derrick | Jun 1, 2013 12:07:26 PM

  5. F**king Illinois politics.
    The slimy underbelly of all the evils in politics gets revealed here.
    Using human rights like pawns in a chess game.

    Madigan looks pretty despicable in this.
    Organized religion as always has it's bloodied hands in the mix.
    And just as culpable as these backhall dealings was the non participation by the LGBT community. Black, white, or purple your efforts were minimal and not very public. They were mailed in.

    Posted by: JONES | Jun 1, 2013 12:23:13 PM

  6. Pretty clear that the activists are not very good vote counters/lobbyists. If they had had the necessary one-on-one conversations in advance, they would know how the vote would go, who remained open to persuasion, what the margin would be.

    No amount of community mobilization can take the place of a personal conversation. Other states have done this.

    Posted by: Bingo | Jun 1, 2013 12:32:41 PM

  7. Two of the twenty in the Black caucus supported us, but it isn't their fault it failed? By my math, that means 18 Black Democrats care more about Bible thumping superstitious Baptist snake handlers than the civil rights of gays. This isn't a racial issue. It is a political and religious issue. And frankly, to me, it is obvious the Black caucus isn't our friend. Sure, the sponsors of the bill may have been inept or corrupt. But they shouldn't have needed to twist arms of a minority group who has faced terrible discrimination to support the civil rights of another group.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 1, 2013 12:38:23 PM

  8. Can we stop with the fingerpointing and start trying to build more support for the bill from not just Democrats but Republicans too?

    Posted by: Sam | Jun 1, 2013 12:55:37 PM

  9. So basically everyone says it's someone else's fault, so we have no idea who to blame at at election time. If they had actually taken a vote, we would know who was to blame! The biggest betrayal here is not that it didn't pass, but that our so called allies in the Illinois House leadership didn't even allow it to come to a vote.

    Posted by: Ken | Jun 1, 2013 1:01:45 PM

  10. It's a huge mistake to turn this into a Gay vs Black thing, which is exactly what NOM would like for us to do. By all means criticize the loud-mouthed and theocratic black ministers who lobbied against this, AND the spineless Black Caucus members who were too wimpy to stand up to them, but the only way forward is to do MORE outreach to the black community itself, bypassing them both.

    Black gays and allies are going to have to step up to the plate on this one too because otherwise it gets mis-characterized as white gays "telling them what to do." You really refuse to step up as an activist yourself then turn around and blame those who DO step up and accuse THEM of being "racist" because they're white and more black people aren't involved.

    But lets keep the real blame where it belongs, on the bigoted and intransigent Republican party and the churches, black AND white!

    Posted by: Caliban | Jun 1, 2013 1:02:41 PM

  11. Sam--Let me suggest that one way to get support for our cause is to shame the Democrats who failed to support our cause into doing the right thing. And the first way to do that is to identify who the a-holes are.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 1, 2013 1:03:18 PM

  12. Sam is right. Going forward it's about getting the votes that weren't there this time, and that means reaching out to and lobbying the Black caucus and Republicans. And assuring the reluctant Yes votes that if they support equality, they will be supported in the next election. Finger pointing is inevitable after such a major failure, especially given that success was promised, but it doesn't do anything to secure the votes needed this coming November. Time to channel that anger in smarter ways.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 1, 2013 1:04:48 PM

  13. It's time for us to take out the political trash in Illinois. I moved from Texas to IL for this??

    Posted by: Keith C | Jun 1, 2013 1:16:37 PM

  14. Am I the only one who thought it was a good decision to wait to vote in November. Since they did not have enough votes?

    Now they still have achances to get married equality in 2013. If they did not have enough votes, theywould had to started from the beginning and the bill had to be approved and voted on in the house again. We now have a real opportunity to achieve the goal.

    the various organizations should also begin to better communicate With each other and agree on the best tactics to achieve marriage equality under the law - for all

    Posted by: nn | Jun 1, 2013 1:17:45 PM

  15. Notice he says "vote on this legislation" not "vote for this legislation." There's no guarantee of anything.

    Posted by: MAJeff | Jun 1, 2013 1:20:50 PM

  16. Apparently, the reason they are waiting until November is because it's AFTER the nominating petitions are filed for the subsequent races. This gives politicians in more conservative districts more leeway to vote yes. I think a lot of the frustration about the the failure to vote yesterday came from raised expectations and the the thought that it would easily pass. Now we know that we can't sit back and assume it's getting done by politicians in Springfield. We all have to get involved.

    Posted by: Joe | Jun 1, 2013 1:25:22 PM

  17. Looks like Illinois could use the likes of a Governor Cuomo to get this done.

    Posted by: NY2.0 | Jun 1, 2013 1:39:29 PM

  18. This quote from Ford in the Phoenix article, "What happened is that we had democracy at its best and the people spoke and their representatives listened.”

    Is that really what happened? Will we ever really know? Were there really not enough phone calls / visits? (I know about the differences in the demonstrations.)

    Also, from the Phoenix:

    "In addition, Dunkin said marriage equality is not a civil rights issue and marriage equality advocates may have offended black lawmakers when they equated the two."

    It seems there is disagreement within that community. I've heard some say it is. No one group has a monopoly on "civil rights". We may have been on different paths to get them, but they are for all of us. And since they're for all of us, comparisons are futile. It is in this that we can appreciate each group's unique histories to get those same "civil rights".

    Posted by: Tim | Jun 1, 2013 1:50:53 PM

  19. What a mess. I hope the momentum we've been seeing for marriage equality since Obama's reelection doesn't end here.

    Posted by: JMC | Jun 1, 2013 1:51:47 PM

  20. Somebody's lying.

    But Harris....tears? Quavering voice? Where is the anger? Where is the passion? Where is the willingness to rip balls off? THAT is what was missing. And THAT is why there isn't marriage equality in Illinois this morning.

    Posted by: THAT | Jun 1, 2013 2:24:35 PM

  21. Dunkin is a galling ass.

    Marriage is and always will be a civil right.
    His ignorance on civil rights equality is what is offensive.

    Posted by: JONES | Jun 1, 2013 2:26:08 PM

  22. What a farce !

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jun 1, 2013 2:29:21 PM

  23. Somebody interview Madigan.
    Ask him tough questions and get him on record, on camera.

    Posted by: JONES | Jun 1, 2013 2:37:57 PM

  24. "Don’t blame the Black Caucus. The Black Caucus has always been with us and so have the Latinos,” Garcia said. “They are just using the black people as an excuse.”

    Stupid liberals. They got what they deserved.

    "Outreach" to black politicians on gay issues never works--only playing hardball with them does. Meaning, the governor and the Speaker and white Democrats need to make it clear to them that if they want any part of THEIR agenda addressed, they need to vote for same-sex marriage.

    Otherwise, they never will, given the rampant homophobia among their constituents (and themselves).

    It really is that simple.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 1, 2013 2:59:09 PM

  25. "In addition, Dunkin said marriage equality is not a civil rights issue and marriage equality advocates may have offended black lawmakers when they equated the two."

    And this coming from a co-sponsor of the bill. No wonder it failed. Illinois Dems are a joke, a very bad one.

    Posted by: Peter M. | Jun 1, 2013 3:02:15 PM

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