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Illinois State Rep Left Dying Son’s Side to Vote for Gay Marriage Bill

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Friday Nov 8, 2013

In a heartbreaking turn of events, Illinois State Representative Naomi Jakobsson left her dying son's side on Nov. 5 to cast one of the final votes on the state's successful marriage equality bill, and returned to the hospital 10 minutes after he passed away.

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Rep. Jakobsson, D-Urbana, co-sponsored the legislation, and her vote was counted upon to win the razor-thin margin needed to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

So when the State Rep. Greg Harris decided to put the legislation to a vote, Jakobsson got word. She made the 90-mile drive from the Downstate Mattoon hospice where her 46-year-old son Garret was dying from Pick's disease, a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disease that destroys brain cells, to the Capitol.

The six-term legislator got to the House in time to hear two and a half hours of the debate. She voted in favor of the legislation, and headed back to be with her son. Unfortunately, Garret passed away 10 minutes before Jakobsson arrived.

"Everything was a little surreal. She had left his environment she'd been in, kind of a waiting vigil at her son's beside, to come here," Jakobsson's close friend state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz told the Chicago Sun-Times. "When she looked at me she said, 'He could die while I'm here,' and that's exactly what happened."

Jakobsson's colleagues heaped praise upon her for making the marriage equality legislation a priority even while her son was dying. But the representative said that her son would have wanted her to do her job.

"Equal protection under the law is important to everyone in my family, including Garret," Jakobsson told the Chicago Sun-Times. "This was a vote that was important to my whole family, one that I felt I could not miss, and I know my son was proud of my decision."

According to the Chicago Tribune, the legislation passed with only 61 votes, one more than the bare minimum, and has been sent to the governor, who promised to sign the measure that will make Illinois the 15th state to legalize gay marriage.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


  • patroy, 2013-11-08 13:55:23

    She needs to run for President! She has my vote!

  • MNrainbow, 2013-11-09 02:26:57

    No way to repay her for what she did, what a wonderful person!

  • nick, 2013-11-09 10:09:22

    She is a true American!

  • GT, 2013-11-09 19:15:25

    All Americans should be proud of this woman. My heart goes out to her on the loss of her son.

  • gdhamf, 2013-11-09 21:36:54

    It always hits hard when a parent loses a child (the worst thing a parent can ever deal with) I wish her the best and thank her for her work!

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