US: Anger as Illinois equal marriage vote delayed, but supporters confident the fight is not over

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Supporters of the equal marriage bill in the US state of Illinois were angry to find that the bill was not called on Friday, the final day of the current legislative session, but seem confident that when it returns, it will succeed, and noted it as an example of why the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed.

Senate Bill 010 passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate on Valentine’s Day this year, but failed to be called on Friday, as its chief sponsor Representative Greg Harris, despite promising to call the bill for a vote before the end of session today, also previously said he would only call it if he was sure it had enough support to pass.

Representative Harris gave an impassioned speech, during which he broke down in tears, as he accepted responsibility for the bill’s delay, but said that his colleagues had asked for more time to speak to constituents. 

Despite this, Andy Thayer, equal marriage activist and co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, said House Speaker Mike Madigan was to blame for the “abject betrayal”, of equal marriage supporters.

Saying that Madigan’s sway would have been enough to ensure the safe passage of the bill, he also attacked Harris for not calling the vote today.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a statement shortly after the vote, criticising the House for not voting on the measure, but saying it was grateful to, and would work with the bill’s sponsors to achieve equal marriage in the state.

“The House of Representatives has neglected the rights of its constituents by failing to vote on marriage equality legislation.  For months, LGBT couples and their children have had their lives put on hold throughout an exhaustive political process that ultimately came up short.

“We’re grateful to the bill’s sponsors, state Rep. Greg Harris and state Sen. Heather Steans, for their leadership in getting us this far, and will continue to work with them and all of our allies in Illinois to ultimately achieve full marriage equality.”

State Governor Pat Quinn, who in 2011 helped introduce civil partnerships int he state, and who had already said he would sign the equal marriage bill, if it came to his desk, voiced disappointment that the House did not vote, but was adamant that the fight was not over for marriage equality in his state.

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry, equal marriage advocacy group, released a statement calling the failure by the House to vote a “disgrace”.

He thanked all those who worked towards the bill so far, and said: “Make no mistake, we will fight and make our case until all Illinois families have the freedom to marry the person they love and until the legislative vote reflects the solid majority of Illinoisans and Americans who stand for treating their neighbors the way they want to be treated.”

The HRC statement also noted the failure to vote on the bill as an example why the Supreme Court decision on two cases around equal marriage, expected in June, should vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Proposition 8.

“Today’s inaction is a prime example of why the U.S. Supreme Court must rule in favor of full marriage equality nationwide to ensure the security and welfare of these and countless other American families aren’t left to chance in future political battles.”

Prior to the vote, President Barack Obama had reiterated his support for the bill, and said that legalising equal marriage in the state is something he “deeply supports” and the “right thing to do”.

The vote is now expected to take place in September, when the next legislative session begins, and Representative Harris said he was taking his fellow representatives’ words that they would be ready to vote by then.