As the legislative session in Illinois nears its conclusion on May 31, several issues, including gay marriage, remain unresolved in the state. Now, Governor Pat Quinn is directly calling on the Legislature to solve the issue.
A same-sex marriage bill passed the Illinois Senate in February and went to the House. Although Democrats hold a majority in the House as well, the bill has stalled. Supporters believe that they do not yet have the votes needed for passage.
"We're a little closer. But we're not yet there. But we're closer," said Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, another Chicago Democrat, has been quiet about the number of votes he has secured. Sixty are needed for passage.
The gay marriage debate has provided a look into the uniqueness, or perhaps the dysfunction, of the state's politics. Although a predominantly Democratic state, gaining passage of gay marriage has been difficult. Last week, citizens in the downstate East St. Louis area began receiving "robo-calls" from a prominent African-American minister from Chicago. Rev. James Meeks said on the call:
"In my view, same-sex marriage should not be the law of the state of Illinois. . . . Call your representative, Eddie Lee Jackson, and share your view with him."
Governor Pat Quinn has publicly stated his support for gay marriage in the past and made it a point in his State of the State address this year. At the end of the week, Quinn made known his frustration about the House's inability to pass the bill when he said, "It's time to vote:"
"Illinois passing marriage equality into law, I think, sends a great signal to the people of our state and the people of America. So it's important to Illinois (that) the House of Representatives get going."
As the Chicago Tribune points out, Quinn's comments come a day after Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed gay marriage into law and the Minnesota House passed its own gay marriage bill. Quinn's comments also come after a poll showing the Democratic governor's approval ratings hovering below thirty percent. Quinn's term as governor is up after 2014 and he could face a primary challenge from Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a popular figure among Illinois liberals.
With only about three weeks left in the legislative session, the General Assembly will likely be rushed to beat the deadline on a number of issues. In addition to the Illinois gay marriage bill, public pension reform is still on the table as well as what type of concealed carry legislation to pass.