Illinois is one of the states gay marriage supporters from around the country are expecting to become the next to legalize same-sex marriage. The 2012 election produced veto-proof supermajorities for the Democratic Party in both chambers of the state legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.) has publicly stated his intent to sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk. Once the new General Assembly was sworn in, observers believed it was only a matter of time.
Not so fast.
The bill did pass the Senate last month by a vote of 34-21. Three downstate Democratic senators voted against it: Gary Forby (D-Benton), William Haine (D-Alton) and John Sullivan (D-Rushville). Two Democratic senators voted “present:” Napoleon Harris (D-Chicago) and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins (D-Chicago), and two Democratic senators sat out the vote entirely: James Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville) and Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago).
Jason Barickman (R-Champaign) was the sole Republican senator to vote for the bill.
Awaiting a vote in the House, Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) stated this week that the same sex marriage bill is “12 votes short of passage.”
Sixty votes are needed to pass a measure through the House, and Democrats hold a supermajority of 71-47. Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) is the only Republican congressman thus far to come out in favor of the bill. Taking the 12 vote deficit into consideration, that must mean at least twice as many Democratic representatives (24) haven’t committed to passing it yet.
Sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) indicated he would not call the measure for a vote this week. Lawmakers are in Springfield next week, but will then adjourn for two weeks for the Easter holiday.
Reports from within the Capitol say that African-American pastors in Chicago are having a powerful impact on African-American Democratic House members that attend their churches and have faith-based constituencies. Several Chicago lawmakers are now firm “nays” as downstate Democrats from traditional districts are also solid “nays.”
That would seem to mirror the 70% of African-Americans who voted for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.
On the Republican side of the Prairie State, GOP Party Chairman Pat Brady publicly endorsed the same-sex marriage bill shortly before a committee that had long been scheduled to decide his future as the leader of the state’s Republican Party was to take a vote of confidence. Liberal media pundits speculated that party officials then decided they were going to vote him out of office simply because he came out in favor of same-sex marriage.
While I’m sure that’s how the left would love to spin it in the media in hopes of further damaging the GOP brand in Illinois and will find any downstate Republican vocal in his opposition to same sex marriage to put on camera, inside party sources have confirmed with me this is not the case.
For starters, the committee that was to decide his future as leader has been called off, specifically to make it clear that a possible vote of no confidence was not because of his support for same sex marriage.
Second, as I mentioned earlier, the GOP is a superminority in Springfield. The last election was a blood bath for Republican candidates. The committee was in the works for months as dissatisfaction grew over Brady’s ineptitude and failure at successfully getting Republican lawmakers elected as well as poor fundraising. Many Republicans believe he’s been a terrible leader, craving for a Vince Lombardi-type “head coach” instead of a Cam Cameron.
I’m sure the left has no problem at all with the GOP’s superminority status in Illinois, and so they are all for maintaining the same leadership with the same results on the other side of the aisle. But GOP state party officials were not going to let the left spin a change in leadership out of context.
Meanwhile, the Illinois same-sex marriage bill is only one roll call away from being signed into law. Whether advocates can obtain the 60 House votes needed remains to be seen.