SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says winning full marriage rights for same-sex marriage in Illinois will be a struggle, but he says such is always the case with civil rights issues.
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“I think it’s something that folks will have to work for, but they call the struggle for equal rights a struggle,” Harris told WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl. “It took generations for women to become eligible to vote in this country. It took generations for the Civil Rights Act to pass in 1964. It’s going to take some time for this movement to come to fruition also.”
Harris said he believes Illinois residents are coming around toward understanding the need for marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
“People are learning more about the difference between what the government does in extending benefits to couples, and the religious institution of marriage, which ewe fully protect, so that certain faiths and denominations can consecrate a marriage if they recognize it, and not consecrate it if they don’t,” Harris said.
In addition, Harris said, a great deal more people have gotten to know their gay and lesbian neighbors.
“More and more people meet their neighbors, their friends, their co-worshippers in church who are gay or lesbian, they realize, ‘These families are just as deserving of protection as ours,’” Harris said.
Co-sponsor Cassidy added that Illinois residents have bigger issues on their minds today than whether someone is gay or lesbian.
“We are all operating in the same horrible economy, the same budget challenges, the same neighborhood crime and school challenges, and nobody is asking me who I sleep with. Nobody asks me who I love,“ Cassidy said. “They ask me how we’re going to solve the problems the state is facing.”
The proposed legislation declares that “all laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children; parties to a marriage and their children, regardless of whether the marriage is of a same-sex or different-sex couple, have the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”
Harris was a lead architect of bill that legalized civil unions in Illinois last year. He has introduced bills for full same-sex marriage rights previously, but has not been successful.
The bill came the day after a three-judge panel struck down Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California after it had been already been legal for five months.
But Harris told the Chicago Phoenix the bill for Illinois was introduced Wednesday because of deadlines for new legislation, and he has always been working toward marriage equality.
Currently, the State of Illinois still bans same-sex marriage by statute. But last year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples.
Full same-sex marriage rights are currently available in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Iowa and the District of Columbia.
On Thursday, lawmakers in Washington state also voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, and Washington Gov. Chris Gregiore is expected to sign the bill.
Same-sex marriage was also legal in California after a state Supreme Court decision in June 2008, but that decision was overturned by Prop 8 five months later.