By Jamey Dunn
As Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law legalizing same sex-marriage in Illinois today, supporters clapped, waved rainbow flags, a symbol of the gay rights movement, and cheered in celebration.
“It’s time to stop planning rallies and start planning weddings. Congratulations,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said at the Chicago event.
“Today we’re here to celebrate family, commitment, love, courage and community,” said Rep. Greg Harris, the sponsor of Senate Bill 10. “This was a labor of love, and it was a mammoth undertaking.” The Illinois Senate approved the legislation in February, and the House voted in favor earlier this month.
Republican state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said that voting for the bill was politically difficult for many, especially those in her own party. Four Republican lawmakers, including former House Minority Leader Tom Cross, voted in favor of the law. “History, I think, will show that we got it right on this one.” She said the new law means that the state will not discriminate against loving couples who want to start a family, which she said is “a beautiful thing.”
Topinka added, “I am available to be a flower girl, and I’ll even waive the fee.”
Speakers at the event acknowledged the historic nature of the day and used the opportunity to call on other states to follow suit. “This new law is an epic victory for equal rights in America. Illinois is moving forward. We are a model for our country. If the Land of [President Abraham] Lincoln can achieve marriage equality, so can every other state in the nation,” said Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor signed the bill on a desk that belonged to the 16th president, who is a favorite source of quotations for Quinn.
“We’ve realized that to have a forward-moving state, you can’t have backward-looking laws,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I hope that the leaders across the county follow the lead that we are taking here in Illinois.”
While the day was historic, it was also personal for many. Jim Darby is a Korean War veteran. He and his partner, Patrick Bova, want to be buried next to each other in the Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, and Bova said the new law will allow them to be. “We have been together for over 50 years. I can remember so many times when I was celebrating family’s and friends’ anniversaries and thinking how wonderful it would be to celebrate my marriage to Jim. Finally that day has come,” Bova said. “Today is the day when we can look back on our five decades together and say, 'We can finally be newlyweds.'”
As usual, House Speaker Michael Madigan kept his comments short. He thanked those lawmakers who were involved in the passage of the bill and simply said, “I’m very happy to join with everyone in the celebration.”
While it was a time of celebration for many, some opponents also recognized the day. The head of Springfield’s Roman Catholic Diocese, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, presided over “prayers of supplication and exorcism” at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield today. In a statement issues last week, Paprocki called political supporters of same-sex marriage “morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin.”
But supporters of the new law say they are moving on. Harris said, paraphrasing Lincoln, “Sometimes we walk slowly, but we never walk back.”
The new law will go into effect on June 1. However there is a bill filed that could potentially move up the effective date. Lawmakers will not be able to take action on that bill until after January 1.