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Our gay marriage looks so familiar

Michael Madigan

Michael Madigan

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Updated: August 2, 2013 6:54AM



Almost three years ago, my wife and I got married on a bright sunny Iowa afternoon in her parents’ backyard. Relatives had come from New York and Florida, clusters of friends caravanned from Chicago; one pal flew in from Brussels, a young friend, Rafa, called from Moscow to congratulate us.

Since then, we’ve celebrated anniversaries, bought a car together, sifted through health-care options, visited family, had a son. This is the thing about same-sex marriages and the families they create: we’re remarkably like every other kind of marriage, like every other kind of family.

When the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 came through Wednesday morning, Rafa texted with one word: “Woo!”

Woo indeed. The Supreme Court decisions greenlighted marriage rights for same-sex couples who have legally tied the knot. That means more than 1,000 rights and benefits, including expanded health coverage, Social Security benefits, green cards for foreign partners, spousal health care and housing allowances for military families, inheritance and estate benefits (as in the case at the core of the DOMA challenge, United States vs. Windsor) and on and on.

A big, big deal: The arc of justice has bent a little more our way.

Unfortunately, it’s still unclear whether same-sex couples legally married in one state such as, say, Iowa, and living in a state that does not offer legal same-sex marriage, such as Illinois, will also fall under the Supreme Court ruling.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, who claims to be pro-marriage equality, had an opportunity to establish legal same-sex marriage in our state earlier this month with the enthusiastic support of a Democratic governor and a strong Democratic-majority Legislature, but Madigan passed.

While same-sex marriage and gay rights in general have never been a priority for Madigan, a more important reason to keep the legislation from even getting a vote was a refusal to let Gov. Pat Quinn get the gay feather in his cap — certainly not when his daughter, Lisa Madigan, the current Illinois attorney general, is a likely challenger to Quinn in the governor’s race next year. (A June 24 fund-raising letter from Lisa Madigan — in which same-sex marriage and gay rights weren’t even alluded to — says she’s been “evaluating how best I can serve the people of Illinois,” classic polspeak for “setting up a campaign for higher office.”)

You see, gays give big bucks to politicians who support their causes. Just ask fund-raising juggernaut Barack Obama: One out of five of his bundlers in the last election was openly gay. Putting off a vote in Illinois, especially in light of these two Supreme Court rulings, doesn’t seem like a smart political, or fund-raising, move for the Madigans.

Rep. Greg Harris, the sponsor of the Illinois same sex marriage bill, has promised a vote in the fall, no matter what. But it would be better still if Mike Madigan stepped up and said same-sex marriage will be legal in Illinois as soon as the fall legislative session opens. And it would be best of all if Lisa Madigan, who also is pro-marriage equality, showed she means it and publicly called on her dad to bend to the arc of justice — because everything else is petty politics.

Chicagoan Achy Obejas will be the Distinguished Visiting Writer in the fall at Mills College, Oakland, Calif.



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