Illinois Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, speaks with reporters on the House floor during veto session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Updated: June 28, 2013 2:22AM
If you’re heading to the Pride Parade this weekend, you might be tempted to boo some of the state politicians who’ll be marching.
If you want to boo them for screwing up the state’s finances, then go right ahead.
But don’t jeer because the marriage equality bill failed to pass the General Assembly.
First of all, the people who stopped the marriage bill won’t even be at the parade, let alone marching in it. The politicians marching in front of you on Sunday are on your side. They support marriage equality or they wouldn’t be there.
The Illinois Senate passed the gay marriage bill by a wide margin back in February, so there’s no need to boo any marching state senators. The bill came up short in the House, and while mistakes were surely made, those to blame are the state representatives who opposed the bill, not the people who supported it.
And don’t buy into the bizarre hype that the bill might’ve passed had it been called for a vote in the House. It wasn’t gonna happen. The roll call was going the other way fast by the end of the spring session.
There are just so many false rumors about this bill. Almost none of them are true, and most have been spread by well-intentioned folks with little to no experience differentiating idle Statehouse gossip from fact.
For instance, the rumor mill was rampant about a vote occurring on May 30, the day before the session ended. But the truth is that the bill lost crucial momentum a few days before when it became known that a prominent House Republican who’d been leaning toward voting “Yes” had switched to a firm “No.” It was the first time that the supporters publicly lost a backer, but it wouldn’t be the last.
The groups supporting the marriage bill hadn’t bothered to do any real ground work in African-American districts, so some initially sympathetic black legislators found themselves targets of a ferocious and well-funded counterattack from their churches. The pro-marriage equality groups didn’t even hire any House-affiliated black lobbyists until the last two days, but by then it was just way too late.
Look, plenty of mistakes were made on this bill. But nobody made those mistakes out of malice.
The attacks on the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, are particularly out of line. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted that bill to pass more than Harris did. He is widely respected as a competent legislator. But the Statehouse game is a lot like baseball. No one has a perfect batting average.
House Speaker Michael Madigan made some crucial errors, for sure. The vote probably should’ve been held much earlier in the session, before the opposition ramped up. But an honest person cannot tell you for sure that it would’ve passed back then. And, besides, I kinda doubt Madigan will be at the parade.
Gov. Pat Quinn claimed in early May that the bill had enough votes to pass, but his headcount was discovered to be bogus. His was just another false rumor which ultimately helped poison the well. Despite his bungles, Quinn means well on this issue, too. No sense in booing him.
If you want to heckle somebody, then pile some friends in a van and head to a parade in a House district represented by somebody who opposes gay marriage. That probably won’t do a lot of good, either, but at least the anger will be properly focused.