Illinois fails to pass gay marriage bill, black caucus reportedly a problem

The Illinois Senate had already passed gay marriage legislation, the governor promised to sign it, but the House fell short in what was expected to be a victory today, but now has turned into defeat.

The Sun Times says the state House black caucus was a big part of the problem.

A similar scenario played out with Prop 8 in California four years ago (though some have tried to rewrite that history).  Yet, the black vote was not a problem in Maryland where the state voted in favor of marriage equality last November.  And with the support of President Obama, I’m sure a lot of people had hoped that we were beyond worrying about the religious right’s declared desire to drive fissures between the black and the gay community.

UPDATE: Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Brennan confirms that it was the Black Caucus:

By all accounts, a major reason for the disappointing outcome in the House was the opposition/hesitancy/anxiety of the House Black Caucus, which includes 20 African-American Democrats. Given the political makeup of the Illinois House, the House Black Caucus clearly had the numbers to dictate the outcome. And on Friday, the members of the House Black Caucus chose to derail the effort to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in Illinois

The usual liberalism of the House Black Caucus apparently does not extend to protecting the equality rights of gays and lesbians. That they pulled the plug on same-sex marriage in Illinois is therefore both disappointing and perplexing….

It is especially distressing that these African-American ministers would act in such clear disregard of the fundamental American principle of separation of church and state. “My God forbids this” was precisely the argument that white supremacists used to defend slavery, Jim Crow and especially anti-miscegenation laws that forbade blacks and whites to marry.

When white segregationists intoned that “God forbids the marriage of whites and blacks,” civil rights leaders — including African-American minister — courageously stood up for the right of individuals to marry whomever they loved — regardless of what others thought their God decreed. It is therefore particularly disheartening to see African-American ministers, who were once so eloquent in defending their own right to marry in the face of religious bigotry, now raising their voices so emphatically in order to deny that very same right to others.

From the Sun Times:

Harris and other supporters of same-sex marriage have had 105 days to amass the necessary 60 House votes to get the measure to Quinn’s desk since the Illinois Senate’s Valentine’s Day vote in support of the bill.

But that 60-vote threshold has been illusory despite high-profile encouragement from former President Bill Clinton and Obama, during his appearance in Chicago this week.

Stubborn resistance within the House Black Caucus, a 20-member bloc of African-American lawmakers who have faced a withering lobbying blitz against the plan from black ministers, has helped keep Harris’ legislation in check, with several House members still undecided.

“For me, there’s really no net gain for me one way or another. I’m hearing equally. Do I philosophically disagree? No, I don’t. But I would like to see absolute protections for churches and religious organizations so they’re not pushed into something they don’t want,” said Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood). “For me, [a decision] will literally be when the bill comes up and after I sit and listen.”

inter-racial-marriagexSeveral in the caucus have urged Harris to push the issue into the fall veto session — after which nominating petitions for the 2014 ballot have to be filed — to bring up same-sex marriage for a House vote.

“The sense I have is blacks are tired of being lobbied or targeted. They’ve kind of turned back on some of the advocates and lobbyists and are asking, ‘Why don’t you get some Republicans?’” one high-level Democratic insider said Friday.

A further update – judging by some of the comments below, I thought this might be a good time to remind people of the words of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King’s widow:

Make Room At The Table for Lesbian and Gay People

Coretta Scott King, speaking four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband’s assassination, said Tuesday the civil rights leader’s memory demanded a strong stand for gay and lesbian rights. “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice,” she said. “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’” “I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people,” she said. – Reuters, March 31, 1998.

Homophobia is Like Racism and Anti-Semitism

Speaking before nearly 600 people at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, Coretta Scott King, the wife of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Tuesday called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias. “Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood,” King stated. “This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.” – Chicago Defender, April 1, 1998, front page.

We have to launch a campaign against homophobia

We have to launch a national campaign against homophobia in the black community,” said Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the slain civil rights leader. – Reuters, June 8, 2001.

More on Friday’s loss in Illinois, from Freedom to Marry:

Springfield, Ill. – Today the Illinois House of Representatives failed to vote on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would have affirmed the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in the state. The bill passed the state Senate in February, and Governor Pat Quinn, a strong supporter, had vowed to sign it into law.

Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, released the following statement:

“After an overwhelming victory in the Senate, today’s failure by the Illinois House is a disgrace, especially for the thousands of committed same-sex couples who want and deserve to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family and spend the rest of their lives with the person they love, protected and supported by their marriage. Freedom to Marry is proud to be an active partner in Illinois Unites for Marriage, and is grateful for the groups that led the effort on the ground — the ACLU, Equality Illinois, and Lambda Legal. We also deeply appreciate the leadership of lead bill sponsors in the House and Senate, Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans. Make no mistake, we will fight and make our case until all Illinois families have the freedom to marry the person they love and until the legislative vote reflects the solid majority of Illinoisans and Americans who stand for treating their neighbors the way they want to be treated.”

Lambda Legal:

Illinois House of Representatives Fails to Vote On Marriage Bill

“This is a stunning failure in the Illinois House. Lambda Legal’s lawsuit
will move forward…”

(Springfield, IL, May 31, 2013) — At the close of the legislative session the Illinois House of Representatives did not call for a floor vote or advance The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, the bill that would grant same-sex couples in Illinois the freedom to marry. Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Jim Bennett, Director of the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal:

“This is a stunning failure in the Illinois House. This is too important to families across Illinois, and Lambda Legal’s lawsuit, Darby v. Orr which was filed a year ago yesterday will move forward.  The day is coming when Illinois will have the freedom to marry. Lambda Legal has been working in the Midwest for the respect of our relationships for 20 years and we won’t stop until same-sex couples in Illinois are treated with dignity and respect.

“We’d like to thank Sen. Steans for passing this bill in the Senate. We thank Rep. Harris, Rep. Cassidy and Rep. Mell, who have worked so hard to see this through. However, it’s unacceptable that our community did not at least get the vote Rep. Harris promised on the House floor. We have a right to know where our elected officials stand on the fundamental right to marry the person you love. We will continue to work with them to push toward passing this critical law as soon as possible.”

The momentum for the freedom to marry has been steadily building; in the past six months, Washington, Maine, Minnesota, Delaware and Rhode Island have joined 9 other jurisdictions in granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry (Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington D.C.) President Obama and President Clinton have endorsed marriage for same-sex couples, and in Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have publicly supported marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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