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Boo the opposition, not your friends

Friday, Jun 28, 2013

* My Sun-Times column

If you’re heading to the Pride Parade this weekend, you might be tempted to boo some of the state politicians who’ll be marching.

If you want to boo them for screwing up the state’s finances, then go right ahead.

But don’t jeer because the marriage equality bill failed to pass the General Assembly.

First of all, the people who stopped the marriage bill won’t even be at the parade, let alone marching in it. The politicians marching in front of you on Sunday are on your side. They support marriage equality or they wouldn’t be there.

The Illinois Senate passed the gay marriage bill by a wide margin back in February, so there’s no need to boo any marching state senators. The bill came up short in the House, and while mistakes were surely made, those to blame are the state representatives who opposed the bill, not the people who supported it.

And don’t buy into the bizarre hype that the bill might’ve passed had it been called for a vote in the House. It wasn’t gonna happen. The roll call was going the other way fast by the end of the spring session.

There are just so many rumors about this bill. Almost none of them are true, and most have been spread by well-intentioned folks with little to no experience differentiating idle Statehouse gossip from fact.

For instance, the rumor mill was rampant about a vote occurring on May 30, the day before the session ended. But the truth is that the bill lost crucial momentum a few days before when it became known that a prominent House Republican who’d been leaning toward voting “Yes” had switched to a firm “No.” It was the first time that the supporters publicly lost a backer, but it wouldn’t be the last.

The groups supporting the marriage bill hadn’t bothered to do any real ground work in African-American districts, so some initially sympathetic black legislators found themselves targets of a ferocious and well-funded counterattack from their churches. The pro-marriage equality groups didn’t even hire any House-affiliated black lobbyists until the last two days, but by then it was just way too late.

Look, plenty of mistakes were made on this bill. But nobody made those mistakes out of malice.

The attacks on the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, are particularly out of line. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted that bill to pass more than Harris did. He is widely respected as a competent legislator. But the Statehouse game is a lot like baseball. No one has a perfect batting average.

House Speaker Michael Madigan made some crucial errors, for sure. The vote probably should’ve been held much earlier in the session, before the opposition ramped up. But an honest person cannot tell you for sure that it would’ve passed back then. And, besides, I kinda doubt Madigan will be at the parade.

Gov. Pat Quinn claimed in early May that the bill had enough votes to pass, but his headcount was discovered to be bogus. His was just another false rumor which ultimately helped poison the well. Despite his bungles, Quinn means well on this issue, too. No sense in booing him.

If you want to heckle somebody, then pile some friends in a van and head to a parade in a House district represented by somebody who opposes gay marriage. That probably won’t do a lot of good, either, but at least the anger will be properly focused.

* Meanwhile, Senate President John Cullerton wants people to know that he’s not the problem

State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told the Sun-Times on Thursday that he was willing to call same-sex marriage for a vote — for a second time — if that meant it would boost momentum in the Illinois House.

“Inaction is in the House,” he said when asked whether the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling would spur action in Springfield. The state Senate passed same-sex marriage on Valentine’s Day. But the House adjourned on May 31 without calling the measure for a vote.

`”I am working with the House sponsor to see if there’s anything that I can do,” Cullerton told the Sun-Times, who caught up with the lawmaker after a City Club of Chicago luncheon where David Axelrod headlined. “If they want us to repass the bill which would require another vote in the Senate with a changed effective date. If that would help, we’d be more than happy to try to do that.” […]

“Usually the second chamber, it’s easier to vote for a bill because your senator has already voted for it. A lot of people have said we’ll wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court, well they’ve acted. This is such an inevitability, figure it out guys. Let’s get this done.”

* New York Times

Gay rights groups say they think the votes are there for a win at a brief legislative session this fall.

Maybe. Maybe sooner. Maybe later. But I still don’t think that this thing will get a vote in the veto session, which would be during the candidate filing process.

* Related…

* Mark Brown: Illinois needs to finish what Supreme Court started: What was really going on was that Republican strategists had identified the threat of gay marriage as a wedge issue that could be used to motivate conservative voters to come out more strongly in that November’s national election. Democrats meekly went along to blunt the impact. The Illinois bill’s chief sponsor, a young state senator named Peter Fitzgerald, went so far as to close the debate with a story about a third-grade boy adopted by two gay men. “Every day this boy is dropped off at school by his parents, and the other kids make fun of him. And he’s constantly crying. He’s in the principal’s office. He’s constantly fighting,” Fitzgerald said disapprovingly, offering his story as an argument in favor of further discrimination against gay couples. How wonderful then that the Supreme Court observed quite the opposite in the impact of the Defense of Marriage Act.

* Durbin was for DOMA before he was against it

* Caprio: Congress must decide federal benefits for homosexual couples

- Posted by Rich Miller        


15 Comments
  1. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 9:01 am:

    Procedural question: If the House were to approve the bill, would the Senate have to vote again because of some change in the effective date, or would the bill move directly to the Governor after a House vote?


  2. - DanL60 - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 9:39 am:

    “Mike Madigan” and “crucial errors” in the same sentence are pretty rare.


  3. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 9:47 am:

    What a weekend for parades. Downtown is packed right now. Raise your Cups!

    There’s plenty to celebrate in the next parade, too, thanks to Justice Kennedy.

    Enjoy that with your friends, and then get back to work on the House. The path might be long and frustrating, but the goal is assured.


  4. - Big Et - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 9:58 am:

    Wish I knew why my comment got bounced, I followed all the rules for newbies. I guess it was just an improper viewpoint.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 10:01 am:

    ===I guess it was just an improper viewpoint. ===

    Nope.


  6. - LincolnLounger - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 10:11 am:

    Thanks for the reminder of why I am glad Peter Fitzgerald was a coward who didn’t run for re-election and moved out of state.


  7. - Esquire - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    No real surprise to find US Senator Dick Durbin doing a one hundred and eighty degree turn. He has done the same on other issues and positions throughout his lengthy and mercurial political career.


  8. - Anon - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    Just once I wish the media and bloggers would offer credence to the fact that the Harris bill, as currently drafted, offers NO religious freedoms to people outside of the church itself. No exemptions for parish centers, no exemptions for religious schools, no exemptions for Knight of Columbus Halls, no exemptions for private businesses like bed and breakfasts, photographers, or caterers, and no exemptions for judges or county clerks. They have rights too that should be protected.


  9. - just sayin' - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    Quinn- the ONLY speaker to get booed at the Hawks Rally…


  10. - Rod - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 12:20 pm:

    Rich thanks for the supportive comments for Rep Harris, he is my representative and I have known him well before he became a member of the Assembly. Rep Harris’ district has a very significant gay, lesbian, and transgender community along with many straight community members who overwhelmingly support marriage equality.

    There is great frustration with the fact that the bill was not called and limited understanding of the tactical consideration Harris made based on his vote count.

    Among the more politically sophisticated community members there is very little criticism of his failure to call the bill. Among the many members of the community that have jumped on the marriage equality bandwagon in the last year and want a victory party there has been some criticism of Greg. I suspect there is also some frustration among divorce attorneys who are looking forward to new business opportunities.


  11. - FoxValleyPride1 - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 12:27 pm:

    I fully intend to walk shoulder to shoulder with Harris in this year’s Pride Parade. A few days ago, I too, would have expected to hear some boos from the crowd. And I’m not completely naive… I’m sure there will still be a few…. but as someone who watches this issue closely from inside the LGBTQ activist community, I can tell you that Wednesday’s SCOTUS decision has very abruptly changed the mood of the LGBTQ community, and more importantly, it’s changed the focus the community’s activist groups.

    Not long ago, I lamented that the LGBTQ activist community, by publicly putting on their “angry face” was being counter-productive. I argued that nobody was going to be persuaded to join up with people who call their opponents names like “bigot” (no matter how accurate those names may be.) I also said that threatening to hold LMadigan’s campaign hostage to her father’s actions was akin to holding a gun to their own head. Unfortunately, that “angry face” problem had to get worse before it got better.

    But it has gotten better. The focus has finally (and instantly) changed. The SCOTUS decision drew a bright red line between a Federally recognized “marriage” and a Federally unrecognized “civil union.” Legislators, like Stephanie Kifowit, who made once made the case that, while she believes in equality, she also thinks that civil unions have accomplished that, can no longer make any such case. With roughly 1,100 Federal benefits associated marriage, as Governor Quinn said, “Members of the Illinois House now have more than 1,100 new reasons to make marriage equality the law in Illinois.”

    The LGBTQ activist community has now been scrambling for ways to make their legislators aware of those NEW arguments - and that’s a very good thing. Those new arguments may change some minds. The whole poisoned strategy of trying to be united in finding someone to blame - that’s gone. At least for the time being, it’s gone. Hopefully, it’s gone for good.


  12. - Big Et - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 12:44 pm:

    Rich: pretty neat how you can appease a commenter by making it appear that their comment is posted, but only on their own device. Of course it is only right to delete posts you dont like, but to make the commenter think he was posted is dishonest. No need to ban me…I thought this was an honest place, but I’ll have to keep looking.


  13. - Just Me - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 12:55 pm:

    Hey Anon at 11:57 — all of the places you mention are places of public accommodation. If they want to be able to discriminate against certain people, then they shouldn’t be in a public accommodation business. If a government official doesn’t want to follow the law either, then they shouldn’t have run for office.


  14. - ChicagoR - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 1:01 pm:

    Anon, are there exceptions to the other civil rights laws for bed and breakfasts, photographers, or caterers who don’t want to serve blacks or hispanics due to a religious objection? Can clerks refuse to issue marriage licenses to our Jewish friends?


  15. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 28, 13 @ 4:03 pm:

    Watched “Stonewall” again last night on “American Experience.”

    Extraordinary.

    There’s still work to do, but there always is. Celebrate how far we’ve come and keep going!


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