It’s not a complete surprise. This past May, President Obama announced he had changed his stance on marriage equality, and was newly supportive of legalized same-sex unions. But this week, he took it one giant step further.
According to The Chicago-Sun Times, the president urged lawmakers in his home state of Illinois to legalize marriage equality. The state’s General Assembly is set to vote on the issue in the coming week.
In his interview with the Chicago-Sun Times, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said, "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. 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."
What’s the strategy behind the president getting involved in state affairs? According to the paper, the maneuver is to encourage and give political cover to Illinois’ Democrats; those in conservative districts are often in favor of marriage equality, but are more likely to vote for it if they know they have presidential backing.
The Midwestern state may have its share of conservatives, but it also has a strong foundation of religious officials willing to publicly support gay marriage legalization. 260 of them sent a letter to the state legislature last week, urging lawmakers to “grant equal opportunities and responsibilities to loving, committed same-sex couples.”
In his own statement released yesterday, GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said, "Like a growing number of Americans, President Obama has realized that marriage equality is the right thing for America. His support for marriage equality should provide Illinois lawmakers the courage to pass marriage equality for all citizens. Now is the time for him to once again bring that support to the federal level and overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which continues to harm countless loving families each and every day."
If Illinois legalizes same-sex marriage this week, it will become the fourth state this year to do so, joining Maine, Maryland and Washington. Proponents are hopeful that the more states legalize gay marriage, the more probable the Supreme Court will as well when it decides the constitutionality of the federal gay marriage ban this April.
Are you hopeful that Illinois will grant equal rights for its citizens this coming week? Let us know where you stand in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com