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Gay Activists to Picket IL Rep. Greg Harris, Demand Vote on Marriage Equality Bill: VIDEO

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Illlinois LGBT activist group Gay Liberation Network is planning to picket Rep. Greg Harris, the lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill pending in the state legislature, on Saturday.

HarrisThe group's demand: "a party-line vote in favor of the bill by the Democratic Caucus, which holds a super-majority in Illinois's House of Representatives.

Writes the group, via press release:

GLN has been unique in publicly targeting the Democratic caucus, and especially House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), for the failure of the bill, SB10, during the spring session and its uncertain fate in the current session.

"Because Speaker Madigan is so powerful, controlling access to jobs and contracts, most organizations are afraid to take him on and bluntly place blame where it's due," said GLN co-founder Andy Thayer. "Madigan controls the House as surely as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel controls the City Council. When Madigan has wanted a party-line vote for far less popular measures, like gifts to the wealthy and well-connected, he's had no problem ramming them through the House. Like it or not, and mostly not, that's the way that politics works in this state."

Unlike pension "reform" and subsidies to already wealthy businesses that pay few, if any taxes, legislation favoring equal marriage rights in Illinois is overwhelmingly popular, with proponents outnumbering opponents by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, according to a February Crain's Chicago Business poll.

The protest is scheduled for 2 PM, Saturday, October 26 in front of Harris's district office, 1967 W. Montrose Avenue, Chicago.

Additionally, the Illinois Unites coalition has launched a three-day petition drive asking for a vote.

On Tuesday, after the March on Springfield, GLN unfurled a banner in the Capitol Building rotunda demanding SB10 be passed.

Watch their video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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As Illinois Rallies for Marriage Equality, Bishop Bans Supporters from Cathedral

As thousands of gay rights supporters rallied in Springfield yesterday in the hopes of pressuring hold-out members of the House to reconsider marriage equality legislation, a planned prayer vigil inside the city's largest Catholic church was squashed following a warning from the head of the Springfield Catholic Diocese that those wearing a rainbow sash would not be permitted in.

PaprockiIn a statement calling the plan "blasphemous," Bishop Thomas John Paprocki (pictured right) said that those praying the rosary for marriage equality would not be allowed to enter the church:

"It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy. Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman (see Mathew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9), praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral," he wrote.

Rick Garcia, a longtime gay rights advocate and political director for The Civil Rights Agenda, blasted Paprocki's comments, saying they were in stark contrast to Pope Francis' recent call for the Catholic Church to work on becoming more inclusive.

"This is the first time in all of my years of coming here that I see police officers in front of this church..." Garcia said. "It angers me because I'm a life-long Catholic. That a bishop would say this about me or my people is outrageous."

Meanwhile, the fate of the marriage equality legislation appears to still be up in the air, according to The Southern Illinoisan:

HarrisBut, despite a raucous crowd and a big-name line-up of speakers including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, the proposal appears to remain short of the needed 60 votes to become law.

The measure's chief sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago (pictured right), told reporters he has not yet scheduled the measure for a vote during the six-day veto session, which began Tuesday "I hesitate to talk about timing or roll calls," Harris said.

Asked if he was waiting to call the legislation until after the December deadline for candidates to file for the primary election - a move that could appease fence-sitting lawmakers worried about picking up an opponent - Harris said the same excuse could be said of waiting until after the March election to vote.  


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?


Illinois House Speaker Extends Marriage Equality Bill's Deadline for Approval to August 31

Does the Illinois marriage equality bill still have a chance?

MadiganThat's what seems to be suggested given a quiet Friday night move by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (pictured) which extended the deadline for approval on the bill to August 31, the Illinois Observer reports:

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) told a packed House chamber on Friday evening that he had to put off a vote on the proposal until November.

However, were Governor Pat Quinn to call lawmakers back to Springfield in the summer for a special session to address pension reform, which also was left without resolution, he could include Senate Bill 10 in a special session proclamation.

If Quinn declines to include marriage equality in any order to lawmakers to return to Springfield, Madigan could call a House special session of his own at the same time to take up the legislation, an insider noted.

“It’s a fascinating move,” said one, long-time lobbyist. “It suggests that there is plan to get it done.”


Why Did the Illinois Marriage Equality Vote Fizzle? — VIDEO

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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.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Why Did the Illinois Marriage Equality Vote Fizzle? — VIDEO" »


Rep. Greg Harris Weeps Announcing Illinois House Will Not Vote on Marriage Equality: VIDEO

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Today, on the last day of the session, after weeks of lobbying and support from President Obama and prominent Democrats, a tearful Rep. Greg Harris made an emotional announcement that the Illinois House would not be voting on marriage equality because certain lawmakers wanted more time.

Said Harris: "I apologize to the families who were hoping to wake up tomorrow as full and equal citizens of this state."

Harris was followed by openly gay Rep. Deborah Mell, who delivered a blistering condemnation of the bill's failure.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Mell

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