The Chicago Family Law Blog

Illinois Senate Could Still Approve Gay Marriage This Week

Late last week, word emerged that Illinois, less than two years after allowing civil unions, was quite possibly on the verge of introducing the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would add Illinois to the ever-growing list of states that allow same-sex marriage. After a few hiccups, it finally passed the Senate committee and was ready for a full vote by a lame-duck legislature.

And then it wasn't.

Friday's legislative session was canceled and as a result, the bill was shelved, according to the Sun-Times. That doesn't mean the end of the battle. In fact, it may even be reintroduced today, as the 98th General Assembly is sworn in. To prevail, it will still have to overcome a few remaining obstacles, however.

Nothing good ever comes easy, right? A few expected voices rose in opposition, including Cardinal George, who called same-sex marriage a "legal fiction," and a coalition of black church leaders, who promised political retribution if the bill passes, according to NBC 5 News. According to MSNBC, the National Organization for Marriage has joined the opposition and pledged to fundraise and campaign against any Republican who supports the bill.

Of course, that would almost certainly guarantee another seat handed to the Democrats. Did we mention that President Obama is on board with gay marriage in his home state? MSNBC also reports that popular opinion is turning in favor of same-sex marriage, with a plurality on board now. In just two years, the percent in favor has increased by 13 percent, to 47 percent in favor. Fifty-eight percent of those under the age of 45 are also in favor.

And of course, this also presented an opportunity for conservative editorials, including one by Dennis Byrne in the Chicago Tribune, which suggests that we open marriage to polygamy and incest as well. After all, he writes, if we can't restrict the rights of homosexuals to marry, we shouldn't be able to restrict anyone else's rights to marry either.

Though it's a tired "slippery slope" argument, we'll bite. Though everyone has the right to marry whomever they choose, rights can be restricted based on an important state interest. After all, we can't yell fire in a crowded theatre -- free speech notwithstanding. There's good reason (genetic defects, disease, trauma to the children) for prohibiting incestuous marriage. What state interest is protected by blocking gay marriage?

Editorials and empty political threats aside, we can't help but feel that marital equality in Illinois is inevitable. Whether you are for or against the upcoming bill, it is headed for the legislature soon. And even if it doesn't pass, the Supreme Court could make this entire legislative battle moot. We'll have more on the Nine's potential impact later this week.

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