Obama presses Illinois lawmakers to support marriage equality bill

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President Obama is using his influence to push the Illinois General Assembly to pass a marriage equality bill, which Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign into law.

Illinois already passed a civil-unions law last year, but equality advocates say that status offers only limited legal rights and confers second-class status.

Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and openly gay state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, intend to put a same-sex inclusive marriage bill, called the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act,” up for a vote as early as next week.

“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Dec. 29.

“As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the president still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally,” Inouye said.

Both houses of the Illinois Legislature are dominated by a super-majority of Democrats. If the bill passes, Illinois would become the tenth state to approve same-sex marriage – and the only one in the Midwest to approve marriage equality by a legislative vote.

Obama endorsed marriage equality back in May, after what he described as a personal evolution on the issue. “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told ABC’s Robin Roberts.

At the time, conservative pundits said the stance would seriously undermine his re-election prospects.