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*** UPDATED x2 *** Rep. Mell: “You can’t legislate who you love”

Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010

*** UPDATE - 12:35 pm *** Rep. Mell is speaking now. Listen or watch by clicking here.

Here’s the video of Rep. Mell’s remarks

[ *** End of Update *** ]

* Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) made a big announcement on Chicago Tonight last night

State Rep. Deb Mell said she wants nothing more than to marry her partner of nearly six years in her home state of Illinois.

Mell — who six years ago turned to her father, Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, to help her put a public face on families where a member is gay — plans to announce her engagement to Christin Baker on the House floor Wednesday.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and I want to get married in Illinois,” Mell, D-Chicago, said Tuesday during an interview on WTTW’s ” Chicago Tonight” news program. “I mean, we could go to Iowa, and Iowa’s great … I went to school in Iowa. But you know what? It’s not the state where I represent, and it’s not the state where I grew up in.”

Mell, 41, said she hopes her announcement will spark public discussion about gay marriage in Illinois. Mell is Patti Blagojevich’s sister.

We’ll try to get video of the announcement today.

* Carol Marin interviewed Mell last night and she filed this column about the interview

“I have to go to Iowa,” Mell said Tuesday, “a great state, but not where I grew up, not where my friends and family are.”

What will she tell her colleagues?

“That you can’t legislate who you love and can’t punish people for it,” she said. “That we are a regular couple, pay taxes, own a home, have a great belief in God.”

Baker, national director of arts and humanities for YMCA USA, will also be on the House floor Wednesday. It will be her 35th birthday.

And, Mell said, “She will be wearing my Mom’s ring.”

Margaret Mell died in 2006, but not before telling her daughter “how much she liked Christin.”

I wouldn’t read the comments if I were you. Man, newspapers really need to get a handle on their idiotic commenters.

* Video

* Meanwhile, the Paul Simon Institute has released more results of its poll of southern Illinoisans

No surprise that southern Illinoisans are more conservative than the rest of the state. Another result…


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Mountain Man - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:05 am:

    Congratulations Rep. Mell. Hopefully Illinois will soon follow Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut in granting equality to our gay and lesbian families.

  2. - Matt - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:09 am:

    I always find the respondents to abortion polls to be a little misguided. So 28.9% of people in Southern Illinois would tell a woman she can’t have an abortion, EVEN if delivering the baby will kill her?

  3. - Conservative Republican - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:11 am:

    “That you can’t legislate who you love and can’t punish people for it,”

    Once you get past the emotional pitch inherent in this statement, it is glaring non sequitur.

    Gays will have to marshall better arguments then that to upend 6,000 years of the treatment of marriage in our civilization.

  4. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:14 am:

    Matt- When that option is not available to the poll responder, some go right and some go left. I think the poll is more than a little flawed by leaving out the “only to save the mother’s life” option, which I suspect would have gotten a good chunk of the 28.9% and provided a more accurate read.

  5. - OneMan - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:21 am:

    God has his definition of marriage and the state has it’s definition.

    As long as it involves two and only two people, you can only be in one at a time and they will not force churches to do them, I don’t have a big problem with it.

  6. - shore - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:23 am:

    Frankly I think it’s pretty hypocritical for a democratic party that spent the last decade complaining that the bush administration took its eye off the ball in afghanistan and instead went to iraq, to now take up this issue.

    Last week I read on this blog how 15,000 people took a day off of work to go down to complain about ms.mell and the rest of state government’s failure to do their jobs. These weren’t republicans, these were actual democrats who should have less to complain about since it’s their party that’s the problem.

    1. get your day job right. Then we’ll see if we focus on stuff like this.

  7. - Big Ears - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:37 am:

    I can’t help but think that if Rep. Mell is making the announcement as a proclaimation of her love, than she should have done exactly that on the House floor, sans a self-serving media rush on Chicago Tonight.

    On the other hand, if this is an actual political push — as she claims — to encourage conversation about legalizing civil unions and/or gay marriage, then she should ante up and introduce legislation to do so.

    Maybe the conservative in me is showing its colors, but this half-hearted attempt at a political statement seems to have more to do with righting a tainted last name and little to do with true social progress.

  8. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:44 am:

    ==Gays will have to marshall better arguments then that to upend 6,000 years of the treatment of marriage in our civilization.==

    Where do you have “our” civilization starting 6,000 years ago and what was the state’s role in marriage (what was the state, for that matter)?

    –God has his definition of marriage..–

    Where would one find that, chapter and verse? If it’s in the Old Testament, I’m assuming it’s cool with polygamy, as practiced by Abraham, David and Solomon, among others?

  9. - Fed up - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:47 am:

    I think civil unions are fine. Marriage is a religious sacrement so it should be up to the church. If a church wants to sanction gay marriage then fine. Every “marriage” should start as a civil union and if the couple wants to add the religious sacrement marriage then they should go through a church. But the benifiets of ” marriage” should be available to all.

  10. - The Doc - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:49 am:

    Shore, that’s a woeful attempt at misdirection, and is completely immaterial. Knock it off, please.

    I have no issue at all with gay marriage, and also agree with Big Ears’ statement in its entirety. I’m highly cynical and very wary of Mell’s motives. She should put her money where her mouth is.

  11. - Pelon - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 10:52 am:

    Neither issue makes my top ten list of things the legislature needs to be addressing these days.

  12. - ChiTownGuy - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:00 am:

    “Gays will have to marshall better arguments then that to upend 6,000 years of the treatment of marriage in our civilization.”

    Does this mean we go back to forcing women to stay at home for children and cooking? Can we stone people to death as described in the Bible?

    Let’s not forget slavery - since it was a common practice since ancient times the same argument can be applied.

    Conservative Republican, this is the kind of argument that doesn’t hold up.

    The fact that two mature, responsible people willing to commit to each other are not allowed to do so by state law is a disgrace. They are not hurting anyone.

    Other than “My God/religion forbids it” (which itself may be a glaring non sequitur based on your point of view) what is the legitimate argument AGAINST allowing a gay couple to wed?

  13. - Fed up - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:03 am:

    I think Madigan wants Cohen in the Gov’s race. He looked at the numbers and figured Cohen will pull more votes away from Brady than Quinn. Even with Simon on the ticket Quinn is doing bad down south

  14. - Conservative Veteran - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:05 am:

    I don’t care whether gay marriage is legal. If it’s legal, the weddings should only be performed by judges. No Christian church should consider performing those ceremonies.

  15. - Name Withheld - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:06 am:

    There are two aspects to the same-sex marriage issue: religious and civil. You can’t force a religion to condone or participate in a marriage that goes against their precepts, so let’s let that out of the discussion. Whatever David, Abraham, Solomon, or the ancient Mesopotamians did whomever did is irrelevant to how Illinois should tackle this issue.

    It’s my opinion that the issue cannot be addressed adequately without examining the various ways in which marriage is woven into the whole fabric of government, and why the government is involved. Can anyone here tell me why the government got involved with licensing marriage, why it would still be involved today, and whether or not those reasons are still valid?

  16. - shore - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:19 am:

    Doc, wrong. I am not commenting on gay marriage or getting into historionics out of respect to this blog and it’s chief, but this is incredibly self serving and selfish on her behalf, especially someone coming from that family which let’s face it isn’t going to go down in history as the best bunch of public servants in state history.

    if unemployment were low, the states finances were in good shape, then illinois would be in place to deal with an issue like this. they aren’t and that’s partly her fault.

    First stroger buying fancy furniture, then this goofy fritchey stunt, now this selfish move, and this follows last week where alexi’s bank failed and that’s 4 strikes for a party that deserves to get sent into a 15 year wilderness.

  17. - Anonymiss - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:22 am:

    Big Ears — why can’t it be both, and why is that a problem? Was this a proclamation of Rep. Mell’s commitment to her fiance? Absolutely, and anyone can see how much they love each other by how they interact, even on camera. Does it also force the conversation about marriage equality? Damn right, and why not? Whether or not you believe all couples should be able to marry in this state (I do) or whether we need the National Guard to deal with violence in Chicago (I don’t), it sure as heck got people talking about it. And that ain’t a bad thing.

  18. - Montrose - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:23 am:

    **if unemployment were low, the states finances were in good shape, then illinois would be in place to deal with an issue like this. they aren’t and that’s partly her fault.**

    I agree on the “partly her fault” bit, but as has been mentioned many, many times on this blog, the legislature is capable - needs to be capable - of dealing with multiple issues at once. We cannot say we will only deal with social issues in good economic times. That is just silly.

  19. - Honest Abe - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:24 am:

    I am not entirely unsympathetic to Deborah Mell, but her constant efforts to publicize her love life make her seem less like a legislator and more like a celebrity seeking public approbation for her life choices like Ellen De Generes. Since Deborah Mell went public with her lifestyle, almost a decade ago, I think that she has gone through several relationships and partners. How much genuine validation would a marriage license provided to her?

    I would think more highly of Mell if she kept her public life and private life separate and focused on addressing Illinois being nearly bankrupt rather than advertising her domestic situation and her own personal priorities so much.

  20. - Lefty Lefty - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    Come on, we all know why she’s not introducing legislation. Mike Madigan won’t let it out of committee. Starting a public discussion of this topic is a reasonable first step.

    The fact is that same-sex marriage is inevitable. The only people who are dead-set against it confuse the legal mechanism of marriage with their religion’s version of it. Or they think it’s icky. Neither one of these stances has enough legs to last more than 10 more years or so.

  21. - Scooby - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    Yes, I agree with Shore, no one is allowed to have love in their life anymore unless everything else has been crossed off their to-do list first.

  22. - Montrose - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:32 am:

    *Come on, we all know why she’s not introducing legislation. Mike Madigan won’t let it out of committee.*

    Also, Greg Harris has introduced legislation every year for the past few years on this issue, both on marriage and on civil unions. He has been the primary legislative champion on this issue in the General Assembly. It would be a whole new level of grandstanding if she introduced her own legislation.

  23. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:34 am:

    ===We cannot say we will only deal with social issues in good economic times. That is just silly. ===

    Agreed, but I’d expand it beyond just social issues. It’s a red herring.

  24. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 11:47 am:

    Rep. Mell: “You can’t legislate who you love”

    Then why are you trying to say that we are?

  25. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    Isn’t it blasphemy to anoint oneself editor of the Bible? Last I checked there was a commandment against working on Sunday, but only some stray lines in Leviticus and such on homosexuality. Why don’t I see the religious right protesters at NFL football games?

  26. - shore - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:16 pm:

    I am aware of the argument that government has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time argument but these guys can’t even walk without falling flat on their faces.

    carol marin does not come off looking great on this issue either. the line about what the ring looks like, that’s not very pbs.

    As a Republican on one hand it angers me that the democrats are this self serving and tone deaf, on the other hand, its (I hope) another nail in their coffin in november.

  27. - Louis Howe - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:18 pm:

    I second Fed-up’s post with a couple additional comments. The media’s prurient interest in other people’s sex lives is a waste of my time. I am concerned about my own sex life and consider good sex as God’s give to nature. I have about the same interest in Rep. Mell’s sexual preference as in a flower’s self-fertile pollination.

  28. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:28 pm:

    The Il Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman. That may be why she’s not introducing legislation–it’s going to take an amendment.

    Besides the fact we’re denying people a very basic civil right, same-sex marriage would probably be good for Illinois economy. Weddings are expensive you know.

  29. - Willie Stark - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:32 pm:

    Lefty, you don’t know what you are talking about. There are two bills on this topic, House Bill 178 (marriage equality) and House Bill 2234 (civil unions). Both are sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris and Rep. Mell is a co-sponsor of them. Both were assigned to a substantive committee and the civil unions bill passed; marriage equality was not called for a vote.

    Rep. Harris has, to this point, chosen not to call the civil unions bill on the floor. Likely because he does not yet have the requisite votes to pass it.(Eventually, and thankfully, I believe he will have them.)

    The reflexive Speaker bashing is dumb and easy.

    We progressives need to use our brains, get the facts right, and identify the realy impediments to achieving our goals. It’s not the Speaker.

  30. - Willie Stark - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:39 pm:

    Cheryl44, the Illinois constitution does not define marriage as between a man and a woman. In fact, the word “marriage” is not even in the document.

  31. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:45 pm:

    At what point after a gay marriage law allows for same do activists take the issue to court to compel churches to perform the ceremony? If you’all don’t think that won’t happen then you are naive. It is happening in Canada already even tho the outcome is in some doubt. It appears the issue surrounds the church issuing the state marriage license and/or the church receiving any gov’t funding for some of the services they perform. A large institution, such as the Catholic Church, which provides many services for which it receives gov’t funding could be compelled to perform the services or risk losing the funding for the unrelated programs.

    I am not saying that the lawsuits will succeed. I can say with some certainty that the lawsuits will be filed. And filed. And filed. It is the great USA we’re talking about here. Where anyone can sue anyone for any reason at any time, repeatedly, without fear of any penalty.

    I only say this because I support civil unions which would confer the same rights to 2 gay individuals to create a legal relationship with all the ups and downsides that heteros have without it being called marriage. I think this would be something that many could get behind even if they don’t necessarily like the idea. Remove the source of confrontation and inflammation from the debate.

    Allay the fears that many religuous folk have and you might see people being less likely to fight it.

  32. - JonShibleyFan - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:46 pm:

    Touching watching House members get up one-by-one to congratulate Deb Mell and her partner. Kudos to Mark Beaubien for being the only one on his side of the aisle to stand up and offer sincere, heart-felt words.

  33. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:48 pm:

    Lake County Democrat,

    The section in Leviticus also mentions not handling pigskin so that works for football as well.

    Really, now. Why push this issue at religous folk who have honest concerns about this? Why be up in their face about it? Do you think that will bring them around to your way of thinking? Maybe you should read “How to win friends and influence people”. Do you and some of the red flag wavers some good.

  34. - Ghost - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:50 pm:

    Good for her to help put a public face on this issue.

    In my expereince, the folks who so rabidly oppose gay marriage, which has no impact at all on them, are the same folks pushing for smaller government, deregualtion, etc.

    I do not think the goverment should be prohibiting gay marriage. There is no legitimate civil issue necessary for the operation of the State being protected or served by the prohibition. This is more like banning the color blue becuase somone does not like it or prohibitng the consumption of black licorice because some people do not like the taste.

    We have marriage in our social structure primarily to create and define property/inheritance rights, and more recently insurance benefits etc. Defining marriage to exclude same sex people from those protections doesnot advance civil interests and therefore should be dropped. Expanding those rights to same sex people helps define adoption custody, property, increases family coverage for insurance coverage etc.

    Since marriage is a civil status converyed by the governemtn, religious principles are irrelevant (and to be avoided by govt anyway).

    Civil union is just a State acting in a religious capacity. Either all unions under government are civil unions, or they are marriage. But drawing a catagory for religious groups is the kind of seperations issues the govt she stay away from.

  35. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 12:53 pm:

    ===. It is happening in Canada already even tho the outcome is in some doubt.===

    First, anybody can sue over anything. It doesn’t mean they win.

    Second, we have this thing called the First Amendment in the USA. This ain’t Canada.

    Take a breath.

  36. - prisontime - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 1:35 pm:

    Who cares who Mell marries?

    She’s still the only member that voted to keep Blago in office.

  37. - Captain Flume - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 1:46 pm:

    First of all, grammatically correctness would dictate it’s “You can’t legislate WHOM you love.” And she is right about that. But legislation about HOW you love is not at all uncommon.

  38. - ABCBoy - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 2:38 pm:

    Weddings are expensive you know.

    And so are divorces.

    At what point after a gay marriage law allows for same do activists take the issue to court to compel churches to perform the ceremony?

    First, anybody can sue over anything. It doesn’t mean they win.

    Second, we have this thing called the First Amendment in the USA. This ain’t Canada.

    I think this is the crux of the issue right here. I think the strongest argument against gay marriage (as opposed to civil unions with full contractual, insurance, wills/trusts, tax rights, etc.), is the danger of forcing church action. The biggest controversies happen when two separate perceived “rights” are in conflict with each other.

    Yes, we have the 1st Amendment. But I could see all kinds of pressure to force faith based adoption agencies or charities, for example, to recognize gay marriages. Or people suing to get a church’s tax exempt status revoked if it refuses to officiate a gay wedding. It’d essentially boil down to some “commerce clause” type argument at the federal level versus freedom of association or freedom of religion. Not sure how it’d play out at the state level.

  39. - ABCBoy - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 2:41 pm:

    So basically my point is I think the weakest arguments in court against gay marriage are “it’s against the Bible” or “it’s icky” or “it harms the family.” Those may work politically, but not legally.

    The legal argument against it is that it violates other people’s rights if expanded too far.

  40. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 2:47 pm:


    Of course it doesn’t mean that the plaintiff will win. However, passing the law creates the situation where lawsuits can be filed whereas they aren’t before. The cost of defending against those suits adds to the cost of any institution doing business. It creates more problems and animosity. I fail to see how my post brought about such a response. I was promoting a common ground where the opposing sides could meet and agree to something that would be palatable and workable for both sides. How that can be seen as over the top is a mystery to me.

  41. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 2:54 pm:

    Willie, you’re right. It’s not the Consitution, it’s the ICS.

  42. - girllawyer - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 3:11 pm:

    We can only hope no issue concerning Mell’s beloved never comes up for a vote in the house. As we already know, family and love trump law, evidence or reason for Rep. Mell

  43. - envelop - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 3:48 pm:

    Perhaps as wedding gift we could all chip in and buy her a grammar book.

  44. - Ghost - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 4:02 pm:

    === I think this is the crux of the issue right here. I think the strongest argument against gay marriage (as opposed to civil unions with full contractual, insurance, wills/trusts, tax rights, etc.), is the danger of forcing church action… ===

    this is an emoitional appeal red herring. How many lawsuits do you see from hetero couples against churches forcing them to marry people or recognize a mariage? many religious organizations have citeria for joining.

    For example being hetero does not mean you can be married in a catholic church, or have that marriage recongized by the catholic church.

    religious bodies are not more susceptible to suits if you legalize gay marriage then they are now.

  45. - really? - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 4:18 pm:

    You can’t legislate who you love. Is this a statement like you can pick your friends but not your family?

  46. - charles in charge - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 4:30 pm:

    @Captain Flume:

    Did you actually type “gramatically correctness”? Are you attempting irony?

  47. - Captain Flume - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 4:42 pm:

    Maybe it should have read “politically correctness.” No, it was my fumbling fingers and hurried post. Mea culpa.

  48. - The Doc - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 5:09 pm:

    ==First stroger buying fancy furniture, then this goofy fritchey stunt==

    You’re grasping as usual, Shore. Not sure what each of these items have to do with each other, save for your ridiculous attempts to link them as some sort of Democrat conspiracy to do…something.

    I don’t begrudge Rep. Mell the opportunity to share her thoughts, be it in the capitol or WTTW studios. And like I said, her familial connections and track record are suspect, to put it mildly.

    But you’re nothing more than a GOP rabble rouser, a hack with a myopic agenda.

    I distrust Mell because of how she became a state senator and her subsequent voting record. I distrust you because you are a Kirk sycophant that distorts and propagandizes most everything to neatly fit a preconceived notion.

    The issue here is Mell. The Bush years, Afghanistan, Fritchey, and Stroger are immaterial and it is absurd to argue otherwise. So I’ll ask you again to knock it off. Please.

  49. - Lefty Lefty - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 5:13 pm:

    Glad to be corrected, Willie. My drive-by comment is hereby rescinded. Mea culpa.

    The bill even says that churches can’t be forces to perform same-sex ceremonies! I guess I’m not the only one shooting from the hip in this thread.

  50. - Park - Wednesday, Apr 28, 10 @ 8:09 pm:

    Ummmm…Deb…They didn’t ‘legislate love’ in Iowa. It was done by their supreme court over the clear objection of the Iowa legislature. Perfect Dem. win….done by courts finding an unwritten right to gay marriage. Good ol’ democracy….can’t win, get the judges to give you something the majority opposes.

    Possibly worst advocate for gay rights…the only elected official to oppose Blago’s removal. Deb…from your daddy’s ward, I’d suggest either I-80 or the Northwest tollway to highway 20. I-80’s faster, but kind of flat. Highway 20 is scenic but only 2 lanes last 50 miles. Enjoy your time in Iowa.

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