WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama is urging the Illinois General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in his home state as lawmakers are poised to take up the measure as early as this week in Springfield.The bill is underway (more here), and enjoys good popular support, and Gov. Quinn will sign it, if it can get out of the legislature.
"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.
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.This is pretty amazing and awesome. I'm really glad to see this, and that the White House itself is going on record to the Sun-Times that they're engaged. (That is kind of a tell too, isn't it? Would Inouye be talking to the Sun-Times if the bill was doomed?)
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.
Both chambers in Springfield are controlled by Democrats. Republicans cannot be depended on for widespread gay marriage support. Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney has reported that Steans and Harris predicted there would be some Republican backing.
Illinois would be a nice win for the marriage equality movement. It's hard to get more middle America than Illinois. It certainly sends (another) signal it's not just a coastal liberal thing. And Chicago has been a pretty successful gay mecca of the midwest (this I know first hand). They might displace Des Moines as a regional destination wedding spot.
And hopefully it can spur movement in the region, including Minnesota. (Would that be the cold splash of water that would finally melt away Michele Bachmann forever?)
And ironically, adjacent Indiana is poised this year to vote on its second round of a state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. It's actually a "super-DOMA" bill that bans not only marriage but civil unions and any other recognition. If it passes out of the Indiana legislature in 2013, the constitutional amendment will go to voters in 2014.
It will look even more retro by then if Illinois follows through. The president's help is greatly appreciated.