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

2013-FEB: Senate Exec. Committee passes SSM
bill
(Cont'd). Senate passes SSM bill. Reactions.

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This topic is continued from a previous essay.

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2013-FEB-05: The Senate Executive Committee passes SSM bill (Cont'd):

The bill was reworded in order to make it clear that clergy can freely refuse to marry same-sex couples if they wish. Modifying the bill to guarantee the right of congregations and religious denominations to discriminate against lesbians, gays and bisexuals is actually redundant. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already guarantees the right of faith groups to discriminate.

Over the centuries, many faith groups have used this religious freedom to discriminate to refuse to marry couples because they were too young, or perceived as too immature, or of different races, or of different faiths, or -- in the case of the Roman Catholic Church -- because a man was infertile due to a physical disability. Thus, modern-day clergy are quite free to deny marriage to same-sex couples with impunity.

However, even though it is not needed, a clause is often added to SSM bills to give additional assurance to the people of the state that faith groups would continue to be free to discriminate. 1 Senator Jason Barickman (R) crafted an amendment to this SSM bill with sponsor Senator Heather Steans. Barickman was the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill. 2

A matter of concern for many conservatives involves requests by same-sex couples to rent church facilities for their receptions. Human rights legislation is already on the books in Illinois. They require owners of "public accommodations" to allow same-sex couples to rent them. However, whether a church-owned hall that is often rented to couples from the community is a public accommodation has not yet been settled by the courts. 3

Another item of concern is whether churches have the right to refuse to hire an otherwise acceptable employee because they are married to a person of the same gender. Illinois human rights law allows faith groups to reject potential employees on the basis of their religious beliefs, but it is not clear whether a person of the same faith could be rejected because they are married to a person of the same gender. 3

There may be other situations in which a faith group's need to discriminate on religious grounds may conflict with human rights legislation. Fortunately, very few have surfaced in other states that have legalized SSM in the past.

State Senate President, John Cullerton (D) said that he wanted the full Senate to hold their vote on Valentine's Day, FEB-14. If passed, it would later move to the House, where Rep. Greg Harris (D) is the main sponsor of the same bill.

Blogger Rich Miller wrote in the Chicago Sun Times that the Republican lawmakers want to see the marriage bill approved as soon as possible. He wrote:

"The reason so many Republicans would like to see the bill passed is because they know that with the huge, new Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers, that it's eventually going to pass anyway. They want to get this issue out of the way and behind them as soon as possible. The issue is trending hard against the GOP's historical opposition, and they want the thing off the table before it starts to hurt them." 4

A coalition of African American clergy is promoting an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would define marriage as restricted to one man and one woman. A member of the group, Bishop Lance Davis, is senior pastor of New Zion Christian Covenant in Dolton, IL. He said that he is "insulted" whenever same-sex marriage is regarded as a civil right. He said:

"I teach my children, while we love everyone, do not ever drink the Kool-aid that says they're one in the same. "We will fight against it vehemently."4

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2013-FEB-14: Senate passes same-sex marriage bill:

On Valentine's Day, by a vote of 34 to 21, the Illinois Senate passed the SSM bill. 5 As expected, the vote was almost perfectly along party lines with all Democrats voting for the bill, Senator Jason Barickman (R) also voting in favor, and all of the remaining Republicans voting against.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans (D) described it as a:

"... vote for the history books. We have the opportunity today to welcome all families in Illinois as equally valued."

The Guardian, one of the leading British newspapers, wrote:

"Bernard Cherkasov, of Equality Illinois, said he believed the bill would [also] pass in the House because the Senate vote was stronger than for the civil unions bill [in the year 2011] and also because they had 300 members of the religious community pushing for it.

Cherkasov wrote:

'We expect lawmakers to keep the bill moving." 2

According to Freedom to Marry, every major newspaper in the state, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the St Louis Post-Dispatch etc., endorsed the bill. 2

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Reaction to the passage of the bill by the Governor and various senators:

  • Governor Pat Quinn (D) issued a statement saying:

    "Today, we are one step closer to marriage equality in Illinois. Couples across Illinois have even more reason today to celebrate their love for each other, thanks to the hard work of committed advocates and lawmakers. This historic legislation will strengthen our state by allowing all committed couples to enjoy the same legal protections and benefits of marriage. The Senate took a stand for equal rights for all people. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation so that we can ensure Illinois is a welcoming place for everyone. Full equality for all people is right for Illinois." 6

He apparently overlooked the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which currently prohibits same-sex couples who are legally married in the state where they live to receive any of the approximately 1,040 federal benefits and protections routinely given to opposite-sex couples.

  • State Senator Kyle McCarter (R) posted a concern on his Facebook page. He said that if the bill is signed into law, it would result in: "damage done to the state." He posted the comment:

    "To redefine marriage is discriminatory towards those who hold the sincerely held religious belief that it is a sacred institution between a man & a woman."

    This is still another example of a recent statement by a politician, clergyperson, etc. demonstrating the shift in the meaning of "religious freedom." It once meant freedom of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to proselytize, etc. It is currently in the process of reversing its meaning to refer to the freedom by religious believers to denigrate and oppress others -- typically women and sexual minorities.

    Many dozens of readers' comments were posted to his facebook page -- most of which criticized his position, and were rapidly deleted. Two amusing postings were:

    Kirk Ketcherside: "Yes. And emancipation was discriminatory against white people who thought that they had biblical authorization to own black slaves. You'll get over it."

    Paul L. Caba: "Religious belief -- you mean something the state/federal government should stay out of due to that pesky 'separation of' thing."

    Senator McCarter's comment was reminiscent of comments by religious conservatives, made during the most recent previous redefinition of marriage. It happened in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court overrode the wishes of a very large majority of American adults by legalizing interracial marriage. Many conservative denominations taught -- an their membership believed -- that when God created the world he intended different races of humans to live in different areas of the world. He expected them to remain segregated from each other and to not inter-breed. Many Americans had "the sincerely held religious belief that it [marriage] was a sacred institution between a man & a woman" of the same race.

    Earlier in the day, McCarter argued against the bill in the Senate. He stated that it would force flower shops and other "wedding-related" businesses to close. He said :

    "Businesses will be affected. Bed and breakfasts, florists, all those that are wedding-related, will be affected. They will choose to, most of them, dissolve their businesses. That’s what happened in other states.

    People have the right to live as they choose ... They don't have the right to redefine marriage for all of us. ... We are jeopardizing freedom, not expanding it." 7

    We carefully scan the media for information of same-sex marriages and civil unions. We can recall one family-owned business that owned a ranch where wedding receptions were held. They were found guilty under state human rights/anti-discrimination laws governing businesses for discriminating against same-sex couples, and went out of business. We recall two other wedding-related businesses that were similarly found guilty paid their fines and were later run off their feet trying to keep up with a surge in customers who were opposed to same-sex marriage and wanted to deal with companies that felt similarly discriminatory. For the latter two businesses, they benefited financially from marriage equality.

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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. "Illinois Gay Marriage Bill Advances in Senate," 5 NBC Chicago, 2013-FEB-05, at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/
  2. Karen McVeigh, "Illinois state senate approves gay marriage by vote of 34-21," Guardian Newspaper (UK), 2013-FEB-14, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  3. "Illinois Senate Committee Approves Gay Marriage," CBS St. Louis, 2013-FEB-05, at: http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/
  4. "Illinois Senate Hopes for Gay Marriage Law Vote on Valentine's Day," Christian Post, 2013-FEB-04, at: http://global.christianpost.com/
  5. Joanne von Alroth & Greg McCune, "The Illinois state Senate voted on Thursday to legalize gay marriage in President Barack Obama's home state," Reuters, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  6. "Illinois Pols react to gay marriage advancement," Ward Room, 2013-FEB-15, at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/
  7. Kyle McCarter, Illinois Senator: Marriage Equality Is 'Discrimination' That Will Shutter Flower Shops," Huffington Post, 2013-FEB-15, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2013-FEB-06
Latest update: 2013-FEB-26
Author: B.A. Robinson
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