BLOOMINGTON - Freshman state Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) says the reason he, as the only Republican, voted to support legalizing gay marriage was because he wanted to make sure religious freedoms were protected.
Barickman told Illinois Review Friday that without his Republican vote, an amendment to assure religious freedoms for churches opposed to same sex marriages wouldn't have been added.
"I believe as Republicans, we had to protect religious freedoms. The amendment was not going to pass without a Republican vote on it," Barickman, an attorney, said. "There were many liberal organizations that disagreed with the amendment, and the only way were going to get the amendment to be included in the bill was with some Republican support."
The "liberal" organizations involved in negotiations included the gay rights Lambda Legal Foundation and the ACLU - Illinois. SB 10's Senate sponsor negotiated Barickman's wording addition for one Republican vote, enabling gay rights group to publicize nationally that the measure passed with bi-partisan support.
"My wife and I are Christians, and because of our faith, we believe a marriage is between and man and a woman. Few dispute that same sex marriage is coming to Illinois eventually, so I approached this bill with the mindset that we must preserve religious freedoms of those organizations, institutions and entities that do not believe in same sex marriage," Barickman said.
The original version of SB 10 did not provide those protections, Barickman said, and some will say the amended bill did not go far enough, but after working to get the amendment added on, he does believe the amendment protects religious freedoms.
While gay marriage proponents say that opening the way for same sex couples to marry will force over 1,100 changes to federal and state laws, the amendment added at the last minute on Thursday focused on assuring religious institutions the right to determine whether or not they will open their facilities to host same sex marriage ceremonies and celebrations. The measure did not change the Illinois Human Rights Amendment nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, leaving specifics to be determined in the regulations process and, possibly, in the courts.
SB 10 opponents were surprised to learn of Barickman's deal with gay rights groups. Illinois Family Action's David Smith said Barickman acted as a lone wolf in negotiating the language change.
"Why didn't he consult with Illinois Family Institute, Eagle Forum, Family PAC or the Catholic Conference as to the wisdom of adding that amendment?" Smith asked. "Senator Barickman acted on his own."
In addition, Smith said, Barickman's amendment would have no effect on business owners like a Paxton couple who is facing a civil rights lawsuit because they refused to open their bed and breakfast business to host a same sex civil unions ceremony last year.
"That couple lives in Senator Barickman's own district," Smith said.
Smith said Barickman's vote has stirred a furor among conservative ranks. Family PAC is initiating robo calls (listen here) into Barickman's district, and the National Organization for Marriage has threatened to primary any Republican that voted to support the gay marriage effort in Illinois.
SB 10 passed the Illinois Senate Thursday with a 34 to 21 vote, with 2 voting "Present." It will proceed to the Illinois House, where openly gay State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) is sponsor. The governor has promised to sign SB 10 into law if it reaches his desk.