Obama Urging Gay Marriage In Illinois

By Amy Cavanaugh in News on Dec 30, 2012 4:00PM

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A couple join into a civil union in Chicago in June 2011. Chicago Man
The Sun-Times reports that President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in the state. Lawmakers are expected to consider the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act," sponsored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), as soon as this week.

The Sun-Times reports:

"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday.

"As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally," Inouye said.

Democrats control both the state House and Senate, though Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney has reported there could be some Republican backing. But when Illinois passed its civil union law in 2011, only one Senate Republican, current Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, voted for the bill. But the House could be the problem, as the Sun-Times reports:

The toughest challenge for gay marriage backers will be winning passage in the Illinois House. Prospects for approval in the Illinois Senate--where Obama once served--are brighter.

The practical impact of Obama urging his home state to legalize gay marriage is to prod--and give political cover to--reluctant Democrats from conservative suburban and Downstate districts.

Gay marriage has public support, at least: a recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that a majority of Illinois residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage—47 percent believe it should be permitted and 42 percent disapprove.