Marriage Equality Advocates Continue Push for Votes as Illinois Veto Session Looms

0203R096-201x300Is marriage equality legislation in Illinois heading for a victory when legislators return to Springfield for a veto session next week on October 22?  It depends on who you ask, according to the Chicago-based Windy City Times:

Sponsors have just two windows of time to pass equal marriage legislation through the house if they want to make good on a promise to call the bill during veto session. They can call for a vote during the week of Oct. 22. November 5-7 will provide the other opportunity.

Rep. Greg Harris [right], chief sponsor of the bill, predicted a vote during veto session, after spring session ended without a vote May 31. Harris told a packed gallery in the state capitol that night that his colleagues were unready to vote for the bill and but said they would do in the fall. The Illinois senate passed the measure in February.

But despite those vows, reports suggest that sponsors are still scrambling to put together the 60 votes they need.

Here's a quick sampling of LGBT advocates' views in the state on the likelihood of success for the equal marriage bill this fall:

  • "Our sense is that we're feeling very optimistic headed into veto session." — Ed Yohnka, director of communications for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois
  • "There isn't a lot of new information just yet.  Springfield sometimes works in mysterious ways." — Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois
  • "We're in the upper 50s, let's put it that way." — Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda
  • "I believe we're going to get this done in veto session." — Richard Carlbom, director of state campaigns for Freedom to Marry

None of the stakeholders in Springfield will speak publicly about a vote court or a list of target legislators, nor will they discuss when they might bring up a vote on the marriage bill.  All eyes, it seems, are on Rep. Harris.

60038_468462886666_5802255_nOn October 22, the first day of the veto session, supporters of marriage equality in the state will join in a March on Springfield designed to push reluctant lawmakers to flip into the yes category.  Sponsors of the March, which include Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim (right), are anticipating between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees.  In an editorial titled "Marriage in Illinois: The Urgency of Now," Baim called for swift action on the marriage bill in the veto session:

Outsiders ( to politics and to Illinois ) wonder: What is wrong with Illinois? If you give a politician an inch, they will delay it a mile.

There are myriad factors holding up the bill in Springfield, not the least being the timing of a vote three weeks prior to the filing deadline for candidate petitions. When colleagues of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, asked him for a delay in the vote to the veto session, they claimed they wanted more time to take this back to their constituents for discussion. Well, no public forums have taken place, so it's clear the main reason for the delay was to make the vote happen closer to the deadline for election petition signatures.

Which means some politicians still have cold feet and want a further delay, to the January legislative session. But, of course, there are no guarantees that courage will strike them, because then they will be just a few weeks away from the primary election in March. It is odd that other people are saying it is OK for elected officials to wait on this issue when they continue the drumbeat for a vote on other issues no matter what—pensions, gun control, you name it, the pressure is for politicians to act, not delay. Why is it OK to say wait on this issue?