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Julian Bond, Brendon Ayanbadejo make robocalls to back gay-marriage bill

Updated: June 14, 2013 6:29AM

Two pro-gay-marriage robocalls — one by a former Chicago Bears player and another by a civil rights leader — are expected to go out in the districts of Illinois House Black Caucus members on Monday, urging support for gay marriage legislation that’s still awaiting a vote in that chamber in the waning days of the session.

One of the calls features civil rights leader Julian Bond; the other, onetime Bears player Brendon Ayanbadejo.

The calls aim to persuade constituents to get in touch with their lawmakers and urge a “yes” vote on a pending gay-marriage bill.

It combats recent efforts by gay-marriage opponents who already have put out two rounds of robocalls featuring the Rev. James Meeks, a powerful fixture in the black community.

Monday’s robocalls are just the latest effort to target Black Caucus members in the ongoing debate over whether Illinois should legalize same-sex marriage.

Several Republicans have committed to crossing over and voting “yes,” potentially leaving the Black Caucus with critical sway over the issue.

The measure easily passed the Illinois Senate in February, when Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) calling the bill on Valentine’s Day. The vote tallies are trickier in the Illinois House, with numbers reaching just below 60 or just at 60 in unofficial counts.

With just three weeks left in the session, both sides are working to line up support. Earlier this session, the Chicago-based African American Clergy Coalition joined forces with the National Organization for Marriage, pooling resources in opposition.

“I believe that most of your family-oriented organizations thought, erroneously, the majority of the African-American community is behind a liberal agenda, period,” Bishop Lance Davis, senior pastor of the New Zion Christian Fellowship Church of Dolton, told the Chicago Sun-Times last month. “They found out the African-American church is very conservative.”

Gay-rights activists, working under the umbrella coalition of Illinois Unites for Marriage, are pushing for the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation, which Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign. Illinois Unites for Marriage paid for the new round of robocalls.

Ayanbedejo, a three-time pro-bowler, has been an outspoken supporter of gay rights and made national headlines last month announcing that a group of NFL players were prepared to come out in the days after NBA player Jason Collins’ revelation. In his call, Ayanbedejo — who was born in Illinois — touches on being the son of a biracial couple whose relationship was once illegal in this country.

“It’s time to take those steps once again in Illinois. We need to let the world know that Illinois accepts all people regardless of who they love,” he says in the call.

Bond’s involvement, meanwhile, underscores gay-rights’ advocates argument that the modern-day same-sex marriage movement is akin to fighting for racial equality during the nation’s civil rights era.

In recent weeks, some members of the Black Caucus have come out in support of gay marriage, including Illinois Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), who signed on as a co-sponsor to the pending bill.

The calls will target constituents in 17 House districts that include Dunkin’s; Monique Davis; Will Davis; Marcus Evans; Mary Flowers; LaShawn Ford; Esther Golar; Chuck Jefferson; Derrick Smith, and Art Turner, in addition to others.

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