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Marriage Equality News: Black Lawmakers May Be Key To Passage

By Amy Cavanaugh in News on Apr 4, 2013 10:10PM

A couple join into a civil union in Chicago in June 2011. Chicago Man
• Black lawmakers may be the key to passing marriage equality in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune writes that during "Illinois' lengthy and divisive debate on same-sex marriage, perhaps no group of lawmakers has been singled out for more intensive lobbying than African-American state representatives." The measure is 12 votes or less shy of the 60 needed for final approval in the House, and only one of 14 of the House co-sponsors is black.

What's the hold up?

Some African-American lawmakers are uncomfortable with characterizations of gay rights as the latest front in the civil rights movement.

Others fear political repercussions, saying ministers opposed to same-sex marriage have warned legislators who vote for it to never come back to their churches, where politicians traditionally campaign on the final Sundays before an election.

"To be honest with you, it's a little disheartening," said Democratic Rep. Will Davis of Homewood, a black caucus member who has not made up his mind as he works out whether gay marriage is a moral or public policy issue.

Same-sex marriage advocates are contacting faith leaders to differentiate between marriage and civil unions. Rep. Ken Dunkin (D - Chicago), heads the House black caucus and noted pressure on black lawmakers from faith leaders to oppose the bill.

• Meanwhile, state senator Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove), who was deeply critical of Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady's support for same sex marriage said on Tuesday that there's room for different beliefs in the Republican party and he's OK with Sen. Mark Kirk (R - IL) supporting it.

Oberweis, who raised objections to Brady, said that was not due to the underlying issue, but because Brady on his own took a position against the party platform.

As for Kirk's future in the party, Oberweis' response: "Mark Kirk is a smart guy. I assume he made some political calculation that this was OK or would help him. I have no idea, I didn't talk to him," Oberweis said. "Mark is usually pretty careful, and pretty political. I assume that he made a calculation that he believes it helps him not hurts him."

• In 1970, Jet magazine featured the Chicago wedding of Edna Knowles and Peaches Stevens, complete with awesome photo.

Edna Knowles, on the left, and Peaches Stevens were wed in Liz’s Mark III Lounge, a gay bar on the South Side of Chicago, “before a host of friends and well wishers.” The article ended by noting, “although the duo has a type of ‘marriage license’ in their possession, the state’s official marriage license bureau reported it had no record of their license.” This ending serves to remind Jet readers that Knowles and Stevens’ union was not legitimate in the eyes of the state, as does the use of quotes around the word “married” in the headline.

Read it here.