With the next General Assembly scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday, January 9th, Illinois gay marriage backers and legislative sponsors of the bill -- Rep. Gregory Harris (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) -- are hopeful of passing HB 5270 (Same-Sex Marriage) during the Lame Duck Session before the January 9th seating of the new legislature.
During a conference call with reporters on December 13, Rep. Gregory Harris told of his informal survey of fellow Democratic House legislators showing that opposition to the gay marriage idea had dropped significantly since the Nov. 6 elections after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington State sanctioned gay marriage. Nine other states and the District of Columbia now have legalized same-sex marriage, either by legislative or court action.
According to Harris, the public is coming around in starting to recognize the gay marriage issue as a variation on "the Golden Rule: We should treat all families equally." Accordingly, Harris perceives that a "yes" vote is now "within striking distance," as some lawmakers who had been opposed are now taking a second look. Only a simple majority is needed for passage in both chambers.
Both Harris and Steans claim their measure will include an exemption for religious groups that would allow them to conduct or not conduct weddings, as they prefer, involving gay men and lesbians.
It should be no surprise that Chicago's Mayor Rahm Emanuel considers passing a same-sex marriage bill a top legislative priority. It matters not that Illinois already sanctions civil unions that allows same-sex couples the same general legal rights as married couples. At the time of the sanctioning, one of the present day sponsors of HB 5170 , Sen. Heather Steans, already thinking ahead, said "all Illinoisans now need more than 'second-class status' when it comes to marriage."
Accordingly to an article in Crain's Chicago Business, the pro side is going to great lengths to rally support for gay marriage. Hired was a firm founded by top presidential adviser David Axelrod (ASGK Public Strategies) to help supporters reach out to the media, organizations and potential supporters, including corporate officials.
A pro side group has been organized to push for gay marriage, "Illinois Unites for Marriage," to counter the "Coalition to Protect Children and Marriage."
David E. Smith, executive director of Illinois Family Institute, cited a recent media report extolling the news that 260 clergy -- mostly from the Chicago area -- had signed a petition in support of redefining marriage. Given that Illinois has over 1,000 Roman Catholic churches, over a l,000 Southern Baptist churches, more than 500 Missouri Synod Lutheran churches, and thousands of other churches of various denominations, all whom officially and publicly acknowledge that God ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and many with more than one clergyman on staff, 260 petition signers is a paltry number of ministers willing to distort and misuse the word of God.
Lobbying is likewise a very effective medium in convincing state legislators to pass gay marriage legislation. Lobbying techniques that worked in Massachusetts -- the 1st state to sanction gay marriage -- are now being applied to other state, and yes, even here in Illinois. Talking points include:
1. Use lots of emotion.
2. Paint a picture of this being a fight against injustice and discrimination, with lots of Civil Rights imagery.
3. Use emotional personal stories (well-coached if possible).
4. Avoid discussing the details of the bill what it would actually do (i.e., in schools, businesses, etc.), but if you do, speak in generalities.
5. Come across as courteous, rational, and well-meaning.
6. Portray as the good side for civil rights and freedom, versus the unenlightened bad side (which helps victimize people and promotes discrimination).
Dr. Robert Vanden Bosch, Executive Director of Concerned Christian Ministries, muses in his December 2012, Vol. 12:11 Newsletter as to the difficulty of getting people to Springfield to lobby against same-sex marriage to protect God-ordained marriage between a man and a woman, when hundreds of people gathered for days to lobby driver's licenses for undocumented workers. Bosch's conclusion: "People have assumed that the change in the marriage law will not affect the average person."
To understand the impact of same-sex marriage, we only have to look at Massachusetts. The aftermath brings understanding to what Illinois could face should HB 5170 becomes law.