SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A Republican leader in the Illinois House said Monday that his support for legalizing gay marriage in the state could persuade colleagues to join him on an issue he says has “tremendous momentum,” while the Governor told reporters he’s confident same-sex marriage will soon become law in Illinois.
Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. of Mundelein said his position is influenced by his mother-in-law, who has been in a lesbian relationship for about 20 years.
“Because my mother-in-law is gay, I have a more familiar and fair understanding of people who are in same-sex relationships,” Sullivan said. “Everybody has a friend or a co-worker or a relative that’s gay. And as Americans, we believe in social justice, we believe in fairness.”
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A state representative since 2003, Sullivan is the second House Republican to back gay marriage, but the first member of the GOP leadership team, serving as one of Minority Leader Tom Cross’s floor leaders.
Meanwhile, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) said Monday that supporters are “very close” to the votes needed in the state House to pass legislation that grants same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The Illinois Senate approved the measure in February, but getting the 60 votes needed in the House is proving harder.
Quinn didn’t suggest a current vote count, but he said “we’re going to get it done.” He said he’s reached out personally to ask legislators to support the measure.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois’ top Republican, announced his support for same-sex marriage. Although Kirk doesn’t have a vote in Springfield, he’s only the second U.S. Senate Republican to favor the idea and his advocacy, like Sullivan’s backing, could also influence state lawmakers.
“There is tremendous momentum for marriage equality in Illinois,” Sullivan said. ” … I wanted to show people that there are Republicans who are going to support marriage equality and that do believe in equal rights and equal protection under the law.”
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of gay rights organization Equality Illinois, said the bill is ready for a vote “at any moment,” predicting that it will win approval with bipartisan support.
“The most interesting thing about Rep. Sullivan’s statement is that it really honors those truly Republican freedoms, individual freedom and limited government intrusion into private life,” Cherkasov said.
Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove is the other House Republican to defend the proposal, calling it an issue of “freedom, equality and fundamental fairness.”
“Those are conservative concepts to me,” Sandack said. “People ought to be treated similarly, families are changing and I think this bill promotes families.”
Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady also said supporting gay marriage was a solid, conservative stance when he promoted it in January. It was an announcement that nearly cost him his job, before the conservatives trying to oust him backed off.
If the bill does become law, it would make Illinois the 10th state to allow same-sex marriage. The state approved civil unions in 2011.