The Illinois marriage equality bill may be considered as early as tomorrow, Windy City Times reports.
The state Senate will be in session Wednesday, and Sen. Heather Steans is expected to introduce the bill in that chamber this week. "LGBT leaders say that a vote on a bill seeking gay marriage is likely to come sooner rather than later," the Times reports. Steans hopes to get the bill voted on quickly so it can then go to the state House, although a report in the Chicago Tribune says she and Rep. Greg Harris, the lead House sponsor, will go for a vote only if they feel assured of passage. Activists from around the state plan to gather tomorrow in Springfield, the capital.
Both chambers have until January 9 to pass the bill in the current legislative session. After that, a new legislature will be seated, meaning advocates will have to restart their lobbying efforts.
Illinois currently offers civil unions to same-sex couples. Gov. Pat Quinn supports marriage equality and would sign the bill. Several other high-profile politicians have thrown their support behind it, including President Obama, who served as an Illinois state and U.S. senator, marking the first time during his presidency that he has become involved in a state-level legislative campaign.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Francis George, head of Chicago's Roman Catholic archdiocese, today sent a letter to priests in which church members are urged to contact their legislators and ask them to vote against the bill. "Civil laws that establish 'same sex marriage' create a legal fiction," George wrote, according to the Tribune. "The State has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible." Priests can choose to share the letter with parishioners.
The Civil Rights Agenda, an Illinois LGBT rights group, immediately denounced George's letter. "It is unfortunate for Cardinal George that he has chosen not to join the growing number of religious leaders and faithful laypeople across Illinois -- including many devout Catholics," said Rick Garcia, the group's senior policy adviser, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project, and a practicing Catholic. "People of all backgrounds and beliefs are standing up for equality under the law, the protection of families, and the advancement of religious and individual freedom here in the Land of Lincoln."
He noted that the church has a right to its own views on marriage, but under the law no church would be forced to perform any marriage that goes against its beliefs. "How the Church -- or any faith -- views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right."