Constituent callers reportedly told House will vote on marriage equality Friday

Rep. Greg Harris and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, May 30. Photo: Tony Merevick.

Rep. Greg Harris and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, May 30. Photo: Tony Merevick.

SPRINGFIELD — Marriage equality advocates and LGBT community members expected movement in the Illinois House on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage Thursday.

But now it seems the bill will not come up for vote until Friday — the final day of session — according to constituents who have called offices of Speaker Michael Madigan.

As advocates and observers continue to wonder when the marriage legislation will come up for vote, and as House lawmakers remain in session to deliberate other bills, proponents of the marriage equality measure are calling Madigan’s Capitol and district offices to demand a vote before it’s too late.

“A vote has been promised, and now it is time to deliver on that promise,” said Jim Bennett, chair of the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition, at a Thursday afternoon press conference. “We need marriage equality and we need it now.”

Bennett and Illinois Unites advocates urged constituents to call Madigan’s office and demand the bill be called immediately.

Many of those callers were reportedly told by Madigan aides the bill will be considered on Friday; however, when pressed, Madigan Press Secretary Steve Brown denied the alleged messaging, noting, “The people who answer the phones don’t say things like that.”

Harris, too, would not confirm a Friday vote and remained mum on his timeline for the bill.

John Becker, the managing editor at the LGBT blog Bilerico Project, told Chicago Phoenix he received verbal confirmation from a Madigan staffer twice when he called the speaker’s office.

“I decided to try to call Madigan’s office and I spoke to a male representative,” said Becker, who is also an LGBT rights activist and writer. “He said the vote will definitely happen [on Friday].”

Another marriage supporter, Greg O’Neill, 50, of Chicago, called Madigan’s district office Thursday afternoon following the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition’s urgent message to supporters. A Madigan aide there said the vote will occur Friday, O’Neill said.

Several other callers received similar messages from Madigan office representatives, as seen in comments made to a meme on the Illinois Unites Facebook page, displaying the Speaker’s phone number.

However, Andrea Crain, a Chicago-based LGBT activist who also called a Madigan office, said the answering representative offered no specific date for the vote.

“I talked to a male staffer — and I didn’t get his name — but he wouldn’t say whether it would be called [Thursday] night,” said Crain, who then asked him about a potential vote on Friday. “He said he couldn’t verify whether it would be called, but that is is ready to be called.”

Last week, Harris told supporters he will deliver a marriage equality victory and that he would call the bill before adjournment. The measure, Senate Bill 10, officially the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, needs at least 60 votes before it can be passed on to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is eager to sign it into law.

Illinois would become the 13th state to offer the full recognition of gay and lesbian nuptials, joining Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota in recent weeks.

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