GOP leaders back Illinois marriage bill

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Two prominent Republican Party leaders on Jan. 2 endorsed marriage equality legislation in Illinois.

Equality Illinois, the state's largest LGBT civil rights group, said Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady has given his "full support" to the legislation pending in Springfield. Brady, according to a news release, was contacting GOP lawmakers to urge them to vote for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

There's an increasing likelihood that the legislation may be voted upon in both the House and the Senate this month, possibly within the week.

Brady, according to EI, said, "More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way. Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value  – that the law should treat all citizens equally.”

He added, “Importantly, the pending legislation would protect the freedom of religion. No church or religious organization would ever be required to perform a union with which it disagrees.”

Also on Jan. 2, former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman encouraged Illinois lawmakers to pass the measure. He said, "Republicans should support the freedom to marry in Illinois, consistent with our core conservative belief in freedom and liberty for all. Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster strong family values.”

Mehlman, who is openly gay, served as RNC chairman from 2005 to 2007. He also was the campaign manager for the 2004 re-election of President George W. Bush.

In late December, former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said the GOP needed to recognize that civil gay marriage was inevitable.