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Daley wants state to 'move faster' on gay marriage

After a historic vote legalizing civil unions this week, Mayor Daley on Thursday welcomed the Illinois General Assembly into "this new century" and urged lawmakers to "move faster" - and legalize gay marriage.

"Finally, they realized they should have the same rights under state law. But eventually, [gay] marriage will take place. It has to. . . . We have to move faster," the mayor said.

Over the years, Daley has emerged as a champion on gay and lesbian issues - so much so that the Center on Halsted, a $20 million safe haven for the gay and lesbian community at 3656 N. Halsted, has a rooftop garden that bears the mayor's name.

In addition to his steadfast support for gay marriage, the retiring mayor engineered $5.4 million in loans and subsidies for the center and pushed through domestic partner benefits for city employees. He appointed Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Chicago's first openly gay alderman, welcomed the 2006 Gay Games and increased city support for AIDS funding.

On Thursday, Daley urged Gov. Quinn to sign the civil union bill "as quickly as possible."

"These are great citizens. They're a tremendous resource for us in our great city. I'm very proud of the relationship that I had with them over many years. And it's really important for us to move forward. These are people [who] have families. These are people [who] work in every sector of our society. They should not be discriminated against in any way whatsoever," he said.

As for the state Senate's decision to authorize a massive gambling expansion that includes a land-based Chicago casino, Daley doesn't hold out much hope it will pass muster, either in the state House or with Gov. Quinn.

He noted that lawmakers have been "talking about that since the beginning" of time.

"They've been talking about it and talking about it. . . . [Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich] was for it. Then, the next week, he changed his mind. This governor is against it, he said. I don't know what we're gonna do," he said.

Daley acknowledged that the state and city desperately need new revenue. But he insisted once again that a Chicago casino be publicly-owned, just as casinos are in Canada.

Under the public-ownership model, "someone comes in and bids on it. They get a management fee and 15 percent of the profit. The public then gets 85 percent of the profit," he said.

But under the model currently used in Illinois, private casino owners get "all of the money and we get a tax on it. That's all you get,'' Daley said. "We think government should own it. Operate it by the private sector and allow 'em to take a certain percentage. That is the only way it works. Otherwise, we get shortchanged because the tax is so small."