(CBS) – A spokesman for President Obama says the former Illinois state lawmaker is encouraging the  General Assembly here to approve gay-marriage legislation, the Sun-Times is reporting.

Illinois already has a civil-union law on the books, but a bill to legalize same-sex marriages could come up as soon as this week, Washington correspondent Lynn Sweet reports.

“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 was quoted as saying.

“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 added.

The proposed “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” faces an uphill battle in the Illinois House but may fare better in the Senate. Sponsors want to put it to a vote in the January lame-duck session.

“People have changed their minds, they’ve changed their opinions – very much like the American public has. It’s the right thing to do,” sponsoring state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, tells CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley.

The president, a former Illinois state senator from Chicago, previously did not support same-sex marriage. He says he has struggled with the issue and finally threw his support behind it earlier this year.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a fellow Democrat, says he now supports same-sex marriage. Although the General Assembly is dominated by Democrats — the party that typically supports gay rights — some party members hail from more socially conservative areas of the state.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George argued Sunday gay marriage is at odds with both church law and natural law.

“Whatever else happens between two men and two women, it’s not a marital union,” he said. “That’s just a physical fact. That’s not something invented by the church.”