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Editorial: An equality gut check on gay marriage

Updated: June 14, 2013 6:10AM

Somewhere in the Illinois House, we believe, there are at least five members who have yet to say it out loud but know in their gut that gay people should have the right to get married.

These are legislators who abhor discrimination. They think of themselves as loving and tolerant. They know gay marriage is coming soon enough — and, heck, why not — and they’d like to tell their grandchildren someday that they were on the right side of history.

They would like to say they did their part — like Branch Rickey when he signed Jackie Robinson, like President Reagan when he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor — to create a more just American society.

And now, we hope they can see, is the time.

In the next two weeks, state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) is expected to call for a vote on a same-sex marriage bill that has already passed the Senate and has the support of Gov. Pat Quinn. Harris needs 60 votes, and we’re told he’s a mere three to five short, with plenty of fence-sitters.

Those three to five votes could come from the House black caucus, where only a few of the 20 members have yet to come out publicly in favor of marriage equality. We know that they and their constituents are getting robocalls from African-American ministers who oppose the bill. But we also know that black Americans, like nobody else in this country, understand the pain of discrimination and how the Bible can be twisted to keep folks down. White preachers once justified slavery just that way.

Those extra votes also could come from Republicans, among whom there is a growing sentiment that marriage equality is in keeping with conservative values. It promotes strong families and keeps government out of people’s lives.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 11 states plus the District of Columbia, with Minnesota likely to become the 12th state as early as this week. The line between church and state in these laws is clear, and strongly drawn in the Illinois bill. No minister or church anywhere has been compelled to perform or sanctify a gay marriage — and never will be.

If Rep. Harris can find a few more votes, marriage equality will come to Illinois.

Who will step up to be on the right side of history?

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