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Despite Pressure, Harris Not Bowing Out As Sponsor Of Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago (Credit: CBS)

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The state lawmaker who has served as chief sponsor of proposed same-sex marriage legislation said he has no intention of stepping aside as sponsor, despite pressure from prominent voices in the gay community over his decision not to call the issue to a vote last week.

On Friday, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) tearfully told the Illinois House he would not call for a vote on the same-sex marriage bill, explaining he didn’t have the 60 votes needed to pass it, despite weeks of lobbying his colleagues. He said some lawmakers had asked for more time to gauge their constituents’ support.

“Some of my colleagues asked if they could have some time over the summer to go back and reinforce the message of equality with their constituents, and I think that’s the right thing to do,” Harris said this weekend. “They said there’s been a lot of pushback. They need to just communicate why this is the right thing to do.”

WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports the gay newspaper the Windy City Times called the fizzling of the same-sex marriage bill a “historic failure,” and said Harris should bow out as the legislation’s sponsor.

“The biggest blame has to be placed on the chief sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the Illinois House, Rep. Greg Harris, an openly gay man. If you are out front for the credit when there is victory, you are also out front for the failure. The bill stops there,” publisher Tracy Baim wrote.

Harris said he will not step aside as sponsor of the legislation.

“I understand there’s a lot of anger,” he said. “But the anger has to be channeled as it has been in New York when there was a setback and other states when there were setbacks, into passing this legislation.”

The Windy City Times also called for Harris to not run for re-election next year if the gay marriage bill fails in November’s veto session.

“You know, I just look at the messages I’m getting from people I represent who are saying stay and fight the fight,” Harris said.

Harris said he also was remembering his predecessor, the late state Rep. Larry McKeon, who was the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, and succeeded in including sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act in 2005.

In addition to pressuring Harris to hand sponsorship of the same-sex marriage bill to another lawmaker, some members of the gay community have organized an online petition drive aimed at banning Illinois politicians from the 44th annual Gay Pride Parade on June 30.

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