Illinois governor rallies behind marriage at Chicago Pride

On Sunday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has said he supports marriage for all couples, spoke out about the freedom to marry. "We're moving forward," he said. "They key is to get a majority in both houses of the Legislature to get a bill on my desk I can sign. I think we're closer every day."

Currently, same-sex couples in Illinois are permitted to join together in civil unions, and in the past year, 5,000 couples have seen their relationships recognized by the state in this capacity. Civil unions offer some - but not all - of the protections that marriage affords, and this year, even couples with civil unions have seen their relationships misunderstood, disrespected, and treated as something significantly less than marriage. Despite the legal and economic benefits that civil unions afford, only the freedom to marry can truly protect all same-sex couples and their families.

That's why Gov. Quinn and freedom to marry advocates are working toward expanding the civil union law into a marriage law. Advocates are seeking the freedom to marry in Illinois through several different avenues.

Legislatively, three Illinois representatives - Reps. Greg Harris, Deborah Mell, and Kelly Cassidy - introduced the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would grant the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

And on the judicial end of the issue, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois are continuing to pursue their class-action law suit on behalf of 25 same-sex couples who were denied their applications for a marriage license. The lawsuits, announced last month, call for a reassessment of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which explicitly declares that "a marriage between two individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of the State." 

The couples in the Lambda Legal/ACLU lawsuit say that the time is now for the freedom to marry in the state - and that they're worth more than having their marriages treated like second-class marriages.

Freedom to Marry will continue this year to ensure that Gov. Quinn's optimism about the freedom to marry in his state is not in vain. Through conversations about why marriage matters with Illinois' citizens and lawmakers, we can help to win marriage to all of Illinois' residents.