Weather Updates

Gay marriage bill-signing a victory for equality, defeat for intolerance

Illinois Rep. Greg Harris D-Chicago left is congratulated by lawmakers as gay marriage legislatipasses House floor during vesessiTuesday Nov. 5

Illinois Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, left, is congratulated by lawmakers as gay marriage legislation passes on the House floor during veto session Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Springfield Ill. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, top center, looks on. Lawmakers voted 61-54 to send the measure back to the Senate to change the bill's effective date, just a technical change since the chamber already approved the measure in February. The measure will then head to Governor Quinn, who has pledged to sign it into the law. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

storyidforme: 57886837
tmspicid: 20972888
fileheaderid: 9805767

Updated: December 19, 2013 6:09AM

A huge crowd is expected Wednesday at the University of Illinois at Chicago to watch history unfold. After years of struggle and many false starts, Gov. Pat Quinn will sign Illinois’ same-sex marriage bill with great fanfare.

At the same time, not to be outdone, a rogue bishop in Springfield will preside over a prayer service of “supplication and exorcism.” Bishop Thomas Paprocki, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, said last week that same-sex marriage is a union that “comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.”

Human nature compels us to crane our necks at the car wreck in Springfield.

But please, the real action will be in Chicago.

Gov. Quinn chose the UIC Forum, a 3,000-capacity space, not simply because of the political benefit that it will bestow. So far, 2,000 have signed up to attend the signing. Quinn chose a large venue because that reflects the crowd it took, plus many more, to propel this bill over the finish line. More than 1,000 showed up for the civil union bill-signing in 2010, and that was just a warm-up.

For years, carefully and deliberately, supporters of gay marriage have built up support and made it safe for their supporters to speak up. The Illinois House effort was heroically led by Rep. Greg Harris but there were armies of regular people, sticking their necks out for equality and justice, laying the groundwork across Illinois.

And many of them want to be there Wednesday.

“There are just so many people who want to see this. They think it changes our state, changes the world for their families,” Harris, a North Side Democrat told us. “People don’t get to witness history often.”

When the law goes into effect next June, Illinois will become the 16th state to allow for same-sex marriage. Illinois would have been 15th but Hawaii passed its own law last week that was immediately signed into law, with a Dec. 2 effective date. Another state could even slip in ahead of Illinois before June.

No matter who wins next fall’s gubernatorial election in Illinois, the law appears safe. The Sun-Times’ Dave McKinney reported last week that none of the four Republican candidates for governor is interested in repealing same-sex marriage. This comes despite insistence from Bishop Paprocki that they and other officeholders have a “moral obligation” to do so.

It’s always a good day when our elected officials get their marching orders from their consciences and their constituents, not from their religious leaders — be they Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise.

Wednesday is a day to celebrate a long, hard journey toward justice. Not even the latest car wreck should distract us from this historic moment.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.