Witnesses urge Illinois to support loving, committed couples, as panel moves SB 10 to vote as early as next week

SPRINGFIELD  – The Illinois Senate Executive Committee approved Senate Bill 10 today, as support continues to build across the state for legislation recognizing the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples. The 9-5 vote comes against a background of growing support for marriage equality, both in Illinois and nationally.

“I applaud my colleagues for their vote today,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Senate sponsor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. “All eyes are on Illinois as the next state expected to include gay and lesbian couples in the freedom to marry.”

The full Senate will now take up the bill, with a vote expected on February 14.

Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle, Pastor of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Romeoville, testified Tuesday in support of the bill, noting that it would protect religious freedom and not force any religious institution to sanctify a union against its beliefs.

At the same time, Rev. Hurdle said, “This bill will affect the lives of so many people in a positive way – not just the couples who will be married but also their children and their parents, who will proudly be able to tell their friends about their marriage.”

“They will know that, just like my husband and I, their ability to visit each other in the hospital, or receive benefits, or having the mutual understanding of the word ‘marriage’ will be there for them too,” Rev. Hurdle added.

Bloomington couple Suzanne Hutton and Danielle Cook also appeared before the committee, as their high school-age son looked on. Cook discussed why Illinois should grant loving couples the freedom to partake in the “dignity and respect” of marriage.

“That dignity and respect is what Suzie and I want most of all,” Cook said. “Marriage is the standard in our society.”

Recent polls show that a majority of Americans believe gays and lesbians should have the freedom to marry, and polling shows a majority of Illinoisans likewise support it.

Every major newspaper in Illinois – including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Peoria Journal Star, the Springfield Journal-Register and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – has endorsed the legislation.

Illinois Unites for Marriage – a coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois – is continuing its statewide campaign in support of the bill, marshaling support and urging allies to step up contacts with legislators. The coalition supporting the right of all loving, committed couples to marry – joined by business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American and Hispanic leaders, Republicans and Democrats – continues to grow.

“The freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples is in keeping with the Golden Rule, treating others as we’d want to be treated ourselves,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “Illinois will be stronger when we all allow loving and committed couples the chance to care for and protect one another through marriage.”

The bill continues to have the support of Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady, who said in January that, “giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value – that the law should treat all citizens equally.”

Information about SB 10 is available at www.illinoisunites.org, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard. The House version, House Bill 110, is sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago.)