In the push for marriage equality in Illinois, Equality Illinois garnered support from pro-LGBT religious groups, collecting 300 signatures from clergy and lay leaders.
“We learned by working with our colleagues in other states that religious leaders have been one of the most crucial components of the conversation in passing marriage equality,” said EQIL CEO Bernard Cherkasov. “If we engage them on our side, then we succeed.”
The marriage petition numbers were announced at the second Interfaith Equality Prayer Breakfast Tuesday at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.
The petition reads in part:
“Some have misused the name of religion to justify slavery, to deny women the right to vote and deny marriage to interracial couples – people of goodwill find that unconscionable today. We accept our brothers and sisters and recognize that their relationships and families need equal recognition and protections.”
Read the full text here.
Cherkasov said that Equality Illinois will continue collecting petitions even though Rep. Greg Harris, sponsor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, said that the bill will not come up for a vote this legislative session.
“No matter when we pass the bill we need to have a population that understands LGBT equality an issue of faith,” Cherkasov said. “This is about changing the conversation on the ground.”
During the push for civil unions, 600 signatures were gathered from 80 population centers across the state, Cherkasov said.
He said Equality Illinois has reached out to the civil union petition signatories to explain how marriage differs from civil unions and why it is important to the LGBT community in the state. He said these conversations then give religious leaders the tools to talk to their congregations, fellow clergy members and lay leaders.
Caroline Staerk, director of field operations for Equality Illinois, said EQIL has organized talks at congregations around the state and will continue to provide supportive leaders with resources to build more inclusion. EQIL released its first guide for clergy members in March.
At the breakfast Tuesday, clergy and lay leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions spoke.
Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann of Mishkan Chicago spoke to the importance of the role that religious leaders have in facilitating healthy relationships and families.
Alie Kabba, executive director of United African Organization and a practicing Muslim, spoke to the need of various fights for social justice to be framed as part of a larger narrative, the “struggle to make this democracy work for all of us.”
Rev. Sarah Odderstol of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Park Ridge said relationships are what change hearts and minds and that faith communities are a place where this can occur.
After the speakers, attendees broke into small groups and brainstormed ways to be more inclusive of same-sex couples and to prevent bullying of LGBT youth.