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Obama Urges Ill. Lawmakers to Pass Marriage Equality Bill

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday May 30, 2013

There are only two days left in the Illinois legislative session, but that did not stop President Obama from voicing his support for the state's proposed gay marriage bill during a fundraising dinner in Chicago Wednesday, the Chicago Phoenix reports.

Obama called on lawmakers and said that passing the measure is "the right thing to do."

"Here in Illinois, we've got a vote on same-sex marriage that's going to be coming up in the state legislature. And I just want to say for the record it's something that I deeply support," Obama said, according to the Chicago-Sun Times.

"I wrestled with this for a long time and I am absolutely convinced it is the right thing to do," Obama added. "And we have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception."

Obama's comments came during an event held to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. As BuzzFeed notes, the dinner was held at the home of Bettylu and Paul Saltzman in Chicago and the DCCC estimated 70 people attended. Obama, however, did not mention the marriage bill in his earlier speech to an audience of 150 people at the Hilton Chicago.

This isn't the first time Obama has endorsed marriage equality in the Prairie State -- in December Obama made personal calls to legislators, urging them to support the measure, according to the Sun-Times.

"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," Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman, told the publication. "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."

The push for same-sex marriage in Illinois gained a significant amount of steam this month. Just last week, state Rep. Greg Harris, the marriage equality bill’s sponsor, said he is confident the measure will pass by the end of the legislative session.

"When I put it up on the board, it’s going to go up to win," Harris, a Democrat, said. He added that he would "absolutely" call for a vote on the bill before spring session ends tomorrow. "This issue is at the front and center of virtually every conversation going on in Springfield," Harris said.

Harris previously said he would not bring the bill to a vote in the House of Representatives unless he was sure lawmakers would approve it.

Additionally, Illinois Rep. LaShawn Ford, a Democrat representing Oak Park and part of Chicago’s West Side, who had been undecided on the marriage equality bill, announced on Tuesday that he believes "the time has come" to legalize the measure. He told the Wednesday Journal that he credits his support for the bill to Harris.

"This will go down in history as an example of how to effect change in the world," Ford told the paper.

Gay marriage supporters gathered at the Illinois Capitol on Wednesday in order to monitor "the situation in the chamber as many here anticipate little notice of when the bill will be called up for a vote," the Phoenix writes.

"We are here in Springfield waiting for the bill to come up," Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project at TCRA, told the newspaper. "We have until Friday, and the president is going to help us put it over the top because he is our president - meaning he’s worked with almost all of these people at the statehouse. He’s the president from Illinois and these legislators know him and respect him."

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also urged lawmakers to pass the measure earlier this month and has vowed to sign it when it reaches his desk.

"Illinois passing marriage equality into law, I think, sends a great signal to the people of our state and the people of America," Quinn, a Democrat, said. "So, it’s important that Illinois and the House of Representatives get moving. I believe a majority exists to get this bill passed through the House onto my desk so I can sign it into law."

Support for the measure has even come from former President Bill Clinton. Last week, he urged Illinois’ House to approve the measure and issued a statement.

"Our nation’s permanent mission is to form a ’more perfect union’ - deepening the meaning of freedom, broadening the reach of opportunity, strengthening the bonds of community," Clinton said. "That mission has inspired and empowered us to extend rights to people previously denied them. Every time we have done that, it has strengthened our nation. Now we should do it again, in Illinois, with marriage equality."


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