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Illinois activists launch $2 million push for marriage equality

Gay marriage supporters are launching a $2 million statewide campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois.

Illinois Unites for Marriage is a coalition representing gay rights, civil rights and political groups.

In a statement, the group says it will place 15 field organizers throughout the state to engage supporters. They plan to target legislators who oppose a measure to lift Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign includes the hiring of John Kohlhepp, a longtime organizer and lobbyist.

“It’s a new day in Illinois, with a fresh strategy to bring the freedom to marry to all loving and committed couples in the state," said Richard Carlbom of the Freedom to Marry, one of the organizations in the coalition. "In the wake of historic rulings for marriage at the Supreme Court, Freedom to Marry and our partners are reenergized for this new phase of the campaign, and more committed than ever to following through for the win. With smart mobilization at Illinois Unites and continued leadership in the Legislature, we’ll make Illinois the next marriage state this session.”

The Illinois Senate passed the marriage equality bill in February. It wasn't called for a vote in the House because the bill's sponsor said it didn't have the votes to pass.

Jim Bennett is chairman of the coalition. He says the next few months are critical because lawmakers could take up the bill in the fall.

Opponents say marriage should be between a man and woman.

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