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Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Illinois.

2012-DEC/2013-JAN: Various groups & individuals
supporting or opposing the SSM bill.
Informal poll

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This topic is continued from a previous essay.

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2012-DEC-27: Illinois Family Institute opposes SSM bill:

NBC Channel 5 in Chicago interviewed David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute.

He regards SSM to be a threat to religious liberty. He illustrated this belief by describing an incident that ocurred in 2011. A lesbian couple attempted to have their civil union ceremony held at the Waldorf Bead and Breakfast in Paxton IL. Owner Jim Waldorf allegedly responded:

"I own and operate this business for the glory of the Lord. I'm a Christian. This violates my conscience." 6

The couple sued Waldorf under the state's existing anti-discrimination laws that require business that are offering a service to the general public to not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, etc.

The implication is that if same-sex marriage is legalized in the state, there would be many other lawsuits launched against business that want to refuse to offer their services to LGBT couples and individuals. This does not seem to be the experience of other states which have legalized SSMs in the past.

Smith commented on the meaning of the term "marriage." He said:

"The word 'marriage' itself linguistically means something. No one's going around trying to redefine triangles as round. There are no round triangles. There are no gay marriages. There's going to have to be a distinction between marriages that are gay marriages, or genderless, you might say, and those that are actually man and woman who produce children: procreative. ... [Lesbian and gay couples] don't have the right to go around and demand that we redefine a historical institution that has been understood for thousands of years as the union of one man and one woman."

His comment does not seem to be historically accurate because the definition of marriage has changed many times even during the history of the United States:

  • For most of the 19th century, marriage in Utah was defined as a union of one man and one or more women.

  • Prior to the end of the civil war, marriages between African American couples were banned throughout much of the U.S. After slavery was outlawed, marriage was redefined to allow African Americans to marry.

  • In the late 19th century and early 20th century, deaf couples were not allowed to marry in some states.

  • Before the Loving v. Virginia decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, interracial marriage was prohibited in many states.

  • During mid-2004, marriage in Massachusetts was changed from the union of one woman and one man to the union of two persons. Same-sex marriage is legal currently in about 11 countries worldwide and is permitted in 9 states and the District of Columbia in the U.S.

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2012-DEC-29: President Obama urged Illinois General Assembly to legalize SSM:

White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago 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. ... 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." 7

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2012-DEC-29 and later: Chicago Sun-Times takes informal internet poll:

The newspaper asked readers about their opinion on same-sex marriage. The three options were:

  • 6,225 (92%) selected "Yes, it's about time."
  • 529 (8%) selected "No, it's not right."
  • 38 (1%) selected "Other." 7

By 2013-FEB-06, 6,792 readers of the above article had voted. Margin of error is ±1.1 percentage points. However, the results probably do not represent the opinion of all Illinois adults. They represent only the readers of the Chicago Sun-Times article who were sufficiently motivated to respond to the survey.

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2012-DEC-30: Business leaders support SSM:

Illinois Unites for Marriage is a joint program of Equality Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal. They have prepared an open letter promoting SSM for Illinois. These three groups also led the 2010-2011 campaign that successfully created civil unions in the state.

A group of Illinois executives and companies have signed the letter, including Google; Joe Mansueto, founder of Morningstar; Norman Bobins, chair of PrivateBancorp Inc.'; Groupon; and Fred Eychaner, a Chicago media mogul and arts champion. 

Rahm Emanuel (D), mayor of Chicago, was one of a number of people who personally contacted CEOs seeking support and additional signatures for the letter. He said:

"I've called anywhere from nine to a dozen [CEOs], and everybody is a personal 'yes.' Some are a 'yes,' and don't worry about it. Others are a 'yes,' but they have to go check [the letter], and run it up and down their boards because they work for publicly traded companies. ... They have some internal work to do to get to a 'yes'."

A draft version of the letter says in part:

"Since human capital drives innovation and growth, a state must foster an environment where people want to live. To be competitive, a state must create an equitable, fair and respectful environment for all its citizens." 1

Given the option of accepting employment in a state that recognizes their marriage, and a state that treats them like legal strangers -- as simple roommates -- the vast majority of loving, committed same-sex couples would probably choose the former. This puts companies in states that do not recognize same-sex relationships at a significant disadvantage.

The letter also notes that SSMs in Illinois would generate a great deal of hotel and other visitor revenue, as well as additional profit for many wedding specialist companies such as stores that sell wedding apparel, wedding photographers, hall rentals etc.

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2013-JAN-02: Coalition of conservative religious leaders oppose SSM:

A coalition formed of bishops and clergy from about 1,700 congregations and ministries in the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church, USA; The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints; Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod; Muslims, and Roman Catholics wrote a letter to Illinois legislators asking them to defeat the proposed bill to legalize SSM in the state. It says in part:

“The ongoing attempts to alter the definition of marriage in civil law are full of serious danger, primarily by degrading the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults."

The letter recognizes that clergy and congregations will be able to continue to discriminate against LGBT couples with impunity by refusing to marry them. However, if loving, committed same-sex couples are allowed to marry then everyone in the state will have to recognize same-sex marriages.

The letter continues:

"The notion that the exercise of religious freedom is confined to the interior of churches, synagogues, temples or mosques or what one does on Holy Days is wrong and dangerous. The freedom of religion also extends to the ministries of religious organizations and to the individual conscience. Thus, the real peril: if marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations -- regardless of deeply held beliefs -- will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations."

If one were to replace the phrase "same-sex unions" with "interracial unions" then the letter would be the type of document issued against interracial marriages back in the 1960's.

The Rev. Timothy Scharr, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s Southern Illinois District, said:

"Our real concern is for the family, especially the traditional family of father mother and children that’s been rooted so much in our culture. We thought it important to preserve that as much as possible. Many things unforeseen to us could take place. We’re fearful."

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said:

"Not supporting gay marriage doesn’t mean we discriminate against LGBT. We just want the government not to interfere with this issue. I think it’s healthy for society itself to build consensus on this issue. Our policies should reflect the values of society at large." 2

This is a very common argument. The principle expressed is that if a 50 % majority of voters oppose giving equal rights to a minority of adults, then the majority should be allowed to deny any fundamental human right to any minority. Since every person in the U.S. is a member of at least one minority, this forms a dangerous precedent.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Melissa Harris, "Illinois business leaders, Obama backing same-sex marriage in state," Chicago Tribune, 2012-DEC-30, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  2. Manya A. Brachear, "Interfaith clergy coalition opposes gay marriage bill," Chicago Tribune, 2013-JAN-02, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  3. "A message from Brian Brown, President, NOM. URGENT: Make a quick phone all to protect marriage today!, National Organization for Marriage email, received 2013-JAN-02 at 3:25 PM ET.
  4. "Illinois Senate Takes Up Same-Sex Marriage Bill," CBS St. Louis, 2013-JAN-02, at: http://stlouis.cbslocal.com
  5. Brian Brown, "BREAKING: Big win in Illinois!," National Organization for Marriage email, received 2013-JAN-03 at 4:55 PM ET.
  6. Pat Quinn, "Q&A: Why Gay Marriage Won't Pass, Channel 5 NBC Chicago, 2012-DEC-27, at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/
  7. Lynn Sweet, "Obama urging state lawmakers to legalize gay marriage in Illinois: Sun-Times exclusive," Chicago Sun Times, 2012-DEC-29, at: http://blogs.suntimes.com/

Copyright © 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2012-DEC-30
Latest update: 2013-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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