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Anti-gay religious groups launch coalition opposing Illinois marriage equality

Anti-gay religious groups launch coalition opposing Illinois marriage equality

As lawmakers prepare to bring same-sex marriage legislation up for vote in the Illinois General Assembly early next month, a group of conservative religious organizations have formed a coalition against the bill.

At least nine organizations have joined what has been dubbed the Coalition to Protect Children and Marriage, including the Illinois Family Institute, the Thomas More Society and Catholic Citizens of Illinois, the groups announced Tuesday.

“Traditional marriage, between one man and one woman, our existing state law, developed and survived for thousands of years because it is the best familial arrangement for the protection of children and, therefore, for the future continuation of society,” said Paul Caprio, Director of Family-Pac, a coalition member, in a media release.

Last week, Illinois Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the chief sponsors of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, said they were close to securing enough support among their colleagues to pass the bill when they plan to bring it up for vote during the legislature’s lame duck session, beginning Jan. 2.

In order to pass the bill, Steans and Harris need at least 60 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate.

Steans believes Illinois legislators have gradually warmed up to marriage equality in light of three states — Washington, Maine and Maryland — approving same-sex marriage via ballot measure in the November elections and numerous high-ranking officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, coming out in support of gay and lesbian marriages.

“I really think that there’s a national sea change that’s happening on this and I think it’s helped [other legislators] evolve on this issue,” Steans said last week.

The point of the anti-gay marriage coalition, according Caprio, is to organize grassroots efforts to oppose the bill via the member organizations and issue public statements via the coalition regarding their stances.

Activists and proponents for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage suggest the coalition’s efforts are futile now that proponents for the bill have seen increasing support.

“These are just the same-old tired anti-gay groups and individuals that have fought against gay protections for years,” stated Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and senior policy Advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda in a media release. “They have lost in the past and they will lose again.”

Two years ago, Harris successfully pushed a civil unions bill through the state legislature, which was signed by Quinn in January 2011 and effective June 2011. Thousands of gay and lesbian couples have joined in civil unions over the last 18 months.

“Families in America come in all shapes and sizes, and the rights provided by the equal marriage bill are needed to protect the over 5100 loving families that are in civil union throughout Illinois,” Garcia said. “Over 300 clergy have endorsed equal marriage and. Polling shows that Illinois is ready for it.”

In early October, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University released data showing a majority of Illinois Catholics approve of gay and lesbian unions, and the percentage of Catholics who support full marriage equality is just below the state in general, at about 40 percent and 44 percent, respectively.

More numbers from Public Policy Polling indicate the majority of Illinois Hispanic and black voters support for same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of Hispanic voters and 60 percent of African-American voters support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to the poll.

TCRA launched an online petition to support marriage equality Dec. 18.

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