More than a dozen Illinois representatives not voting yes on marriage equality have found themselves sitting across from Gov. Pat Quinn in recent days, he said.
Quinn, a strong supporter of SB10, which would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois, said he has been pushing lawmakers to pass the bill by the end of May when the spring session ends.
Windy City Times caught up with Quinn and asked him about repeated delays on the bill’s passage in the House and just how close he thinks sponsors are to passing it.
Windy City Times: Governor thanks for talking with us. Where do things stand this week on the bill?
Gov. Pat Quinn: We’ve been talking to house members of both parties, really dozens of them. I’m really optimistic we’re within striking distance. Hopefully between now and the 31st of May, Greg Harris, our sponsor, will find a moment to call the bill for a roll call.
I do believe we are very, very close, and we’ve come a long, long way.
WCT: What have your efforts behind the scenes looked like on this?
PQ: First of all, you always work with folks in the community, both individuals and organizations. I’ve been inspired by the efforts of so many groups—Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal. I was very happy to see the NAACP come out in favor of marriage equality. The fact that we’re voting on this bill in Springfield, the home of Abraham Lincoln, I think is a very important message to our country and to our world that Illinois … we want to make sure we send a message of equal rights and fairness to other states in our country.
What I do is I sit down with legislators. We visit about the issue. We did the same when, Greg Harris, as you know, was the sponsor of the civil unions bill a couple years ago. He had 57 votes, and he had about four legislators who were not voting for it. But he thought if I talked to them they might come around. I did, and we got 61.
We need to have that same team approach in the next few days in order to pass marriage equality. This is an epic, epic victory if we can win it. It will send a very clear message to other states in the Midwest and in our country.
WCT: There was a lot of momentum on this bill at the start, coming out of the Senate. Some predicted it could be passed by February. What is the holdup on a vote in the House?
PQ: Well, with the members of the House, it’s a little larger body, 118 members. Clearly, the opponents have been very aggressive, no question about it. But we, I think, have been strong at laying out the fundamental facts and arguments in favor of marriage equality.
The fact of the matter is, the reason why we’re so close is due to the tireless efforts of families and individuals and groups and who aren’t going to let scare tactics get in the way of equal rights and fairness. This has been a very inspiring grassroots campaign from people all over our state. It certainly has impressed me, and I’ve very anxious to get the bill so I can sign into law. But we can’t assume anything until we get the 60 votes in the house. So, we have to be focused here in the next few weeks at getting our message across, answering the other side’s arguments, which I think we can answer.
WCT: What do you want to see Illinoisans doing right now to support that effort?
PQ: In high school, I was a cross country runner, a long distance runner. That’s what we have to remember in this battle for marriage equality. We’ve come a long distance. We’ve traveled over a very high mountain. But when you come down to the last stretch in the race, we’ve got to sprint. We cannot jog. In other words, what we have to do in these next few days and weeks is redouble our efforts because we don’t want any legislators at the last minute deciding not to vote yes.
WCT: If you have the opportunity to sign this bill into law, what are your plans for the signing?
PQ: I look forward to that. You got to win first. But, we will obviously, on the day of signature, want to have something that involves the community, that involves all the families who have written letters, sent emails, made phone calls, come to meetings, who have been fighting for this in some cases for decades. We’ll have to find a meaningful way to send that message to all of those who worked so hard that our democracy listens to the people.
WCT: How many votes do you think you have right now?
PQ: Well, there’s an old saying in Springfield: “Sixty in the House is a landslide.” That’s how we should look at it. We have to get to that majority number. I think we can get more than that, but if we get 60, that’s enough.
I feel there’s a very strong majority of people in Illinois in favor of marriage equality, more than ever. We’ve got to convert that majority of the public into majority in the House of Representatives representing the public.
WCT: It was not too long ago that you came out on your own support for marriage equality. Can you talk about your own journey on LGBT rights?
PQ: It really is interesting. When I go out to eat at a restaurant, almost every time I’m meeting in public there, two people come up to me, and they say, “Because of you signing the bill, civil unions, we’re together today. We’re in a civil union.”
Most folks are very grateful for that. I certainly have seen firsthand and personally. I was at Grant Park after we signed the civil unions bill, and so many folks on that day came together. It was really quite inspiring. I think that has taught everybody, including me, how important it is to have fairness and equal rights. And that includes marriage equality.
I think our country as we move forward will be inspired by Illinois if we can win this.
WCT: Do you expect to see a vote this week?
PQ: I think the sooner the better, really. I think we’ve worked very hard at this. I think it’s time to have the vote, and I sure hope so.
WCT: Is there anything you want to add?
PQ: I think that Windy City Times and all of the leaders and family members in the community should know that it’s their tireless advocacy that has brought us to this moment. It really is an inspiring moment for our democracy that people can ban together for a cause they believe in and carry the day to win an important passage of a law that will last long after we’ve left this earth. But we’ve got to get the job done.