Obama Group Helps Push Marriage Equality in Illinois

Organizing for Action, which grew out of the president's reelection campaign, is working to generate support for the cause in Illinois.

BY Trudy Ring

March 21 2013 6:28 PM ET

Organizing for Action, a group that grew out of President Obama’s reelection campaign as a means to advance his legislative agenda, is assisting in the fight for marriage equality in Illinois.

“We’ve heard from OFA supporters here in Illinois that this issue matters to you, and that’s why we’re teaming up with Illinois Unites for Marriage —a joint project of ACLU Illinois, Equality Illinois, and Lambda Legal — to add our voices to this fight,” Lindsay Siler, OFA’s national director of issue campaigns, wrote in an e-mail sent Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The group had been formed primarily to generate support for Obama’s legislative priorities in Congress, but its leaders said at the outset that it would get involved in state and local matters as well, the Tribune notes. The national group Freedom to Marry reportedly asked OFA to help push the Illinois bill, which has been passed by the state House of Representatives but awaits a vote by the Senate.

Illinois marriage equality backers welcomed the assistance. “I think this will remind people that the president of the United States changed his mind on marriage,” Rep. Greg Harris, chief sponsor of the legislation in the House, told the Tribune. “I’m so glad that he’s changed his mind. It’s what a lot of people are doing.”

Gay blogger John Aravosis termed the OFA involvement “important symbolically and substantively” in a Wednesday post on AmericaBlog. “It matters that an organization created … by President Obama is fighting for gay marriage in a state where black voters are being barraged with anti-gay messages,” he wrote.

The Tribune notes that these messages include automated calls by former state senator James Meeks, the pastor of a largely black megachurch, and radio ads by a group of African-American clergy members.

Illinoisans “are going to listen to all sides” on the issue, Harris told the paper, but he thinks “they are going to come to the same conclusion the majority of Americans have in that this is the fair thing for government to do — to treat all people equally.”

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