With it appearing more and more likely that Illinois will become the next state to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, the bill before the state Legislature gained the support of the chair of the Illinois Republican Party Wednesday.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady is urging GOP lawmakers in the state to support the Religious Freedom and Fairness Act. Brady, acting as a citizen and not in the capacity of his official role in the GOP, is calling members of his party and asking them to support the legislation, according to the Daily Herald.
"More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way," Brady said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "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."
"Importantly, the pending legislation would protect the freedom of religion," Brady added. "No church or religious organization would ever be required to perform a union with which it disagrees."
Reports indicate Brady's support and leadership could push Republican lawmakers to vote for the bill. The Chicago Sun-Times reports a top GOP source says up to three Republican senators are "heavily weighing supporting the gay-marriage legislation." Only one Republican senator voted for a civil-unions law approved in 2011.
Brady joins President Barack Obama in supporting the legislation, who announced his support through a spokesman shortly after Christmas. Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said the president would vote for the measure if he was still serving in the Illinois General Assembly.
"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," Inouye said. "As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the president still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."
A state Senate vote on the bill could come as soon as Thursday. As of Wednesday evening the bill was stalled in committee because the legislation fell two votes short of the 30 needed to grant a legislative hearing. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, two backers of the bill were absent from committee.
Supporters hope to have lawmakers vote on the bill before Jan. 9, when a new class of legislators will take office. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. Advocates suspect persuadable lawmakers leaving office at the end of the lame-duck session could be key to the bill's success.
[Photo: Pat Brady (Courtesy of the Illinois Republican Party/weareillinois.org).]