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Editorial: Gay marriage fight

Rep. Greg Harris Metr ground braking for reconstructiRavenswood Stati4800 N. Ravenswood  Wednesday September 5 2012. l John H. White~Sun-Times

Rep. Greg Harris at Metra ground braking for reconstruction of Ravenswood Station, 4800 N. Ravenswood, Wednesday September 5, 2012. l John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 5, 2013 2:19PM

For six years down in Springfield, we’ve watched Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) do the steady retail politicking that soon will lead — have no doubt — to gay marriage in Illinois.

Harris likes to make his case one fellow legislator at a time, and his very manner — friendly and direct, accessible and informed — is a big part of the sales pitch. Whatever dark and narrow notions about gay people some legislator might have picked up on the playground, in church or on the golf course are belied by every reasonable thing Harris says and how reasonably he says it.

When marriage equality does come to Illinois, Harris will deserve considerable credit. But more than that, we hope he’ll be the man putting the ball over the goal line when it happens.

Harris is catching grief among gay-rights activists for reneging on a promise to call his marriage equality bill for a vote last week. He realized late in the legislative session that he didn’t have the votes, especially when a number of African-American legislators suddenly got cold feet.

Some leaders in the gay community are demanding that Harris step aside and let somebody else take the lead on gay marriage. Some even say he should resign.

Harris never should have made that promise. But calling the bill for a vote would have been a worse mistake. The bill would be dead now, rather than its deadline having been extended to Aug. 31. And nothing would have been gained by singling out for scorn those legislators who would have voted against it. In most of their districts, voting against gay marriage is the safe move anyway.

As Sun-Times columnist Rich Miller wrote Monday in his daily CapitolFax report, there is blame enough all around for the failure of the gay marriage bill.

Senate President John Cullerton may have pushed the bill through the Senate too early, leaving too much time for support in the House to go south.

House Speaker Mike Madigan didn’t work the bill hard until late in the game.

And proponents of the bill, including Harris, knew they needed more African-American legislators on board but didn’t hire the right lobbyists until it was too late.

The good fight goes on.

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