Obama pushes again for Illinois marriage equality bill during Chicago visit

SPRINGFIELD — President Barack Obama again declared his support for a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in his home state Wednesday — just as LGBT advocates and other proponents of the measure continued last minute appeals to undecided lawmakers in the final days of the session.

The president, in town to raise cash for House Democrats, shared his personal support for the Illinois marriage equality bill with supporters at the second fundraiser of the night — the first time he’s done so on his home turf, according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Here in Illinois, we’ve got a vote on same-sex marriage that’s going to be coming up in the Legislature,” said Obama, according to the paper. “I just want to say for the record it’s something that I deeply support.”

“I wrestled with this for a long time and I am absolutely convinced it is the right thing to do,” Obama added. “And we have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception.”

The marriage bill will face its final hurdle — a vote before the Illinois House — before the end of the legislative session Friday, according to the legislation’s chief sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat. Proponents of the bill have been left on their toes as the bill continues to languish with inaction in the chamber, but LGBT rights leaders have assured the community they will win before time runs out.

OUR CONTINUING COVERAGE OF THE BILL –>

On Wednesday, advocates from several proponent organizations in the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition, such as The Civil Rights Agenda and Equality Illinois were on the ground at the Capitol, monitoring the situation in the chamber as many here anticipate little notice of when the bill will be called up for vote.

“We are here in Springfield waiting for the bill to come up,” said Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project at TCRA. “We have until Friday and the president is going to help us put it over the top because he is our president — meaning he’s worked with almost all of these people at the statehouse.

“He’s the president from Illinois and these legislators know him and respect him,” Garcia said, and explained that Obama’s support couldn’t have come at a better time.

Garcia and other advocates who have been pushing for the bill contend they have secured the 60 votes required to pass the bill on to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, who is eager to sign it into law, but that a considerable amount of lawmakers still sit on the fence. Quinn met with several lawmakers to urge them for a ‘yes’ vote on the bill this week.

This is the second time Obama has made public his support of the Illinois marriage equality bill. The Sun-Times first reported in December that Obama was a major force pushing for the bill and making personal calls to legislators.

“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,” Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, told the paper at the time. “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.”

Last week, former President Bill Clinton also threw his weight behind the movement in Illinois, saying, “Lincoln himself came to Springfield in search of opportunity, and he dedicated his life to securing equal opportunity for all citizens. I believe that for Illinois and for our nation as a whole, in the 21st century that must include marriage equality.”

But creating equal recognition for gay and lesbian nuptials isn’t the only major issue the lawmakers face in the final two days — they also may take up legislation that will attempt to solve the state’s multi-billion dollar pension crisis, gun control laws consistent with federal regulations and approving a state budget.

If approved, the bill would make Illinois the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage just weeks after three states — Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota — passed similar laws.