Poll finds majority support for marriage equality in Illinois

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Illinois lawmakers are returning to Springfield for the fall session.

A new poll, released as Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield for a fall session that begins Oct. 22, shows majority of likely Illinois voters support legalizing same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers could, in the session, take up the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which has the support of the governor and passed the state Senate on Valentine's Day. The measure did not pass in the House before the close of the regular session in May.

The new poll, released by Equality Illinois, shows that 52 percent of Illinois voters said they support legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. The number climbed two points to 54 percent when voters were informed of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal ban on recognizing same-sex marriages.

Equality Illinois contracted with Fako & Associates of Lisle, Ill., a national public opinion research firm, to conduct the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.94.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov said, "With Illinois same-sex couples suffering because they cannot access federal benefits available to married couples, the time is now in the fall legislative session for the House to complete its unfinished business on the marriage bill."

He added, "With these poll results, there is certainly no political reason why representatives shouldn't pass it in overwhelming numbers. There are simply no excuses left. We expect every House member who has expressed support publicly or privately for marriage equality or who has been leaning in favor of it to vote 'aye.'"

The poll found:

• 52 percent supported legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples; 40 percent opposed.

• Support grew to 54 percent, with opposition dropped to 39 percent, when voters "contemplated" that Illinois gay and lesbian couples do not have access to more than 1,100 federal rights and protections stemming from marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a section of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

• Support stayed solid at 53 percent, with 41 percent opposed, when pollsters read a statement about who supported the bill, including Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, and who opposed it, including Catholic Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield.

• Catholics supported marriage fairness 61 percent to 32 percent; Catholic support increased to 63 percent, 31 percent opposed, when read the balanced statement that included the bishops' opposition.

• Hispanic voters supported the freedom to marry 63 percent to 29 percent opposed, a level of support that increased to 70 percent when the Supreme Court decision was explained.

• African American voters favored the law by a 55 percent to 36 percent majority.

• Women supported the proposed marriage law 57 percent to 34 percent opposed.

• And the level of support among all the groups grew the younger the voter being interviewed: 63 percent of voters under 50 backed the law, and that grew to 78 percent support from voters under age 35.