February 21, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Earlier this month, three gay members of the Illinois state legislature introduced a bill that would allow for full marriage equality in the state, which legalized civil unions just last summer. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the bill faces an uphill climb given the state’s political landscape in 2012:
The conventional wisdom in Springfield is that lawmakers will first focus on winning March 20 primary contests as they run in new districts and then attempt to pass a budget and escape the spring session taking as few controversial votes as possible.
“It’s going to be a tough year to pass any legislation that’s outside of budget and pension issues,” said Sen. David Koehler, a Peoria Democrat who championed the civil union legislation. “It’s going to more of an election-year agenda in the state Legislature.”
Passing gay marriage in Illinois is viewed as difficult in the short term because it would require some lawmakers to undergo philosophical and political shifts. Giving same-sex couples the right to visit a loved one in the hospital, make end-of-life decisions and inherit property through civil unions was considered the middle ground.
When asked if he supported the legislation, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn said simply, “I look forward to working with the advocates on this issue to build a majority.” Quinn’s support would most likely be essential to the measure’s success, as it was in passing civil unions last year.
But even though marriage equality may not have the best chance of passing into law in 2012, the bill nevertheless begins an important conversation. As Greg Harris, one of the three legislators who introduced the bill, put it, “You can’t get to the finish line if you don’t start the race.”