Four Illinois lawmakers are pushing for a resolution introduced in the General Assembly last week that would “reaffirm” the state’s statute that prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage.
Rep. Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine) introduced the resoltuion, HJR0095 or “Defense of Marriage,” which calls for the implementation of HJRCA 50, a constitutional amendment to state law which provides that, ”Only a marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Illinois.” Since it was introduced, Rep. David Reis (R-Onley), Rep. Paul Evans (R-Highland) and Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville) have joined the bill as co-sponsors.
“Rep. Reis for years has introduced constitutional amendments to restrict marriage between a man and a woman,” said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who has been a longtime proponent of same-sex marriage legislation and was the key force behind the successful civil unions bill.
“The fact that he has another amendment is not surprising,” Harris said. “They have never come forward and never been voted on. I hope he considers Sally Ride, the astronaut, one of our great American heroes, and how his line of thought has deprived her family the equal treatment that he would want for every American hero’s family.”
Any action on the bill in Springfield, though, likely won’t happen until the November veto session, Harris said. They have introduced it now for publicity and support from their conservative constituents, he added.
Other LGBT rights advocates also question the timing. Illinois already approved a law banning same-sex marriage in 1986.
“This is obviously a reaction to the legal case that was brought forth this year that would invalidate the law that was passed more than a decade ago that bans same-gender marriage in Illinois,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director for The Civil Rights Agenda.
Specifically, the full text of the resolution targets the recent legal efforts by the ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal, which have since been consolidated into a single lawsuit due to be heard in Cook County Circuit Court this Fall. High-ranking Illinois lawmakers including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have all vowed not to support the state’s law when the case goes to court. Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, has also said he would do nothing to defend the law.
“Resolved, That we oppose any efforts to extend the institution of marriage to 2 individuals of the same sex, whether by statute or by court decision…,” reads the full text of the bill. “…Resolved, That suitable copies of this resolution be delivered to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Cook County Clerk David Orr, and all other County Clerks and State’s Attorneys in the State of Illinois.”
Two downstate Illinois county clerks, Democrat Christie Webb of Tazewell County and Republican Kerry Hirtzel of Effingham County, have been granted permission to intervene on behalf of the law with the assistance of The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal activist group.
Rep. Morrison was quick to confirm the reason behind the timing.
“It is in response to the lawsuit,” Morrison said. “The Attorney General and the Cook County State’s Attorney are sworn to defend the law of the land. It’s being challenged right now and it’s not being done legislatively, it’s being done through the courts. By making it part of the constitution — that’s what we’re trying to address. It should be something that the people should decide.”
While Illinois already has a provisions that ban same-sex marriage, his resolution and the ultimate constitutional amendment would block the court’s ruling, take the decision out of the hands of what he called “activists judges” and allow the people to have a say in the matter through his legislation, he said.
However, a voter referendum on the matter, albeit non-binding in Illinois, would give better instruction to legislators when they introduce laws pertaining to the issue and initiatives calling for such a referendum have failed to result in a ballot measure, he said.
“Attitudes on same-gender marriage have changed drastically since then,” Martinez of TCRA said. On a national level, over 50 percent of Americans say they support laws that would grant equality to LGBT people, including marriage equality, according to a CNN/ORC International Survey released last month.
“The best kind of poll is the ballot box,” said Morrison. “We don’t legislate by polls.”
Local LGBT rights activists, including those at TCRA, are calling the proposal a weak ploy to block the rights of same-sex couples and a move for the legislators to win conservative votes in an election year.
“This is nothing more than an attack on same-gender couples and their families,” said Rick Garcia, director of the Illinois Marriage Project for TCRA. “A constitutional amendment has been introduced many times before and it has failed. TCRA helped kill the effort to pass such an amendment last year, and in speaking with legislators we have seen that this neither a popular effort nor one that has the momentum it needs to pass.”
Calls made to Rep. Reis’ office have not yet been returned.