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Getting to ‘Yes’ on gay marriage

Lee Edwards (left) BrendLee shown their civil uniceremony 2011 say threcognitiisn’t enough.

Lee Edwards (left) and Brenda Lee, shown at their civil union ceremony in 2011, say that recognition isn’t enough.

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Updated: November 15, 2013 6:06AM

With just over a week before the fall legislative session in Springfield begins, a debate is brewing about whether to call the same-sex marriage bill for a vote, come what may.

Supporters are achingly close to the 60 votes needed for passage in the Illinois House but appear still to be shy of the golden number. It already has passed the Senate.

This was the story last May when, and at the last minute, House sponsor Rep. Greg Harris opted not to call the bill for a vote.

Harris took tremendous flak from supporters for holding back, but he made the right call.

The goal is passage, not noble defeat.

The goal is to ride the growing momentum toward a more just society to victory, not to slow that momentum and set the effort back.

That’s what a premature vote would have done in May.

It’s what a premature vote could do next week.

Don’t confuse this pragmatic assessment as a sign we’re throwing in the towel.

In this search for justice, it’s only a matter of time — and that could be as short as one week’s time.

Since last May, a powerful effort has been under way by proponents of same-sex marriage to draw out supporters, who by recent polls count as the majority or near-majority of people in Illinois.

The goal is to show just how much support there is out there — a strategy that wins over opponents naturally, including, we expect, the remaining few on-the-fence legislators.

When they hear the voices of people just like them, when they see the harm done by withholding equal rights to neighbors, colleagues and friends, we trust the ‘Yes’ votes will come.

Consider one lesbian couple who agreed to be a face of this effort for the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition, Lee Edwards and Brenda Lee of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.

A couple for 10 years, they sat for a video where they explained how they caught each other’s eye at a barbecue, how they became friends and then fell in love, the beauty of the day they committed to each other in a civil union, but ultimately the inadequacy of that second-class recognition.

“It’s important for people to know this is real, that these are real people who really love each other,” Edwards, who works as a paralegal, told us. “For me, this is not a matter of being public, this is who I am and I’m not afraid to share that with anyone.”

They’re also African-American, no accident given the mistaken impression that the push for marriage equality is somehow widely embraced only among whites.

“It’s important for us as African Americans to show that there are loving, committed same-gender-loving couples, that yes, ‘we do exist and we’re here,’ ” Edwards, 52, said. “When one stands up, it helps others have the courage to be out there and be authentically who you are.”

Win or lose in the fall legislative session, this couple’s love isn’t going anywhere.

“I will be disappointed [if it doesn’t pass this fall] but we won’t give up,” Edwards said.

“I’m optimistic that Illinois will have marriage equality. . . . We’re not just in it for the moment. We’re not going to stop.”

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