SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) on Wednesday introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act in the General Assembly, a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in Illinois.
“It marks the next step in our journey toward full marriage equality in our state,” Harris told Chicago Phoenix. “It’s not going to happen quickly, it’s not going to happen without a lot of hard work.”
The bill, HB5170, comes on the heels of Tuesday’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision declaring the California gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, unconstitutional. It is the latest of many bills Harris has filed as a state representative for marriage equality in Illinois.
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Harris, however, said that the bill was introduced today due to deadlines for new legislation, and that he has always worked to achieve marriage equality. Harris, who is openly-gay, has devoted his career to it, he said.
“They call it a struggle for a reason,” Harris said. “We all have to keep calling our legislators, talk to our religious leaders and work hard to make this happen.”
Out lesbian lawmakers Rep. Deborah Mell (40th District) and Rep. Kelly M. Cassidy (14th District) have been added as co-sponsors of the bill.
“We are very lucky to have three very strong openly gay legislators here in Illinois,” said. “The opportunity to work so closely with representatives Harris and Mell is great — it’s a great opportunity to work together this way.”
If passed, the new law would amend the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, allowing the voluntary conversion of a civil union to a marriage.
“This bill is the first of its kind,” said Harris. “In the past, we didn’t have civil unions, so this bill takes that into account and offers a means to transition from civil unions to marriage.”
Language in the bill is far-reaching, promising the equal rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage to couples regardless of whether they are a same-sex couple or different-sex couple.
“All laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children; parties to a marriage and their children, regardless of whether the marriage is of a same-sex or different-sex couple, have the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law…,” according to a summary of the bill on the General Assembly website.
The bill also includes specific definitions for language used for couples and their families when defining marriage under law.