IL House Bill 5170, the Religious Freedom & Marriage Fairness Act, is still bottled up in the IL House Rules Committee. This oddly named bill has nothing to do with religious freedom. It does have everything to do with bringing Illinois into the 21st century when it comes to granting marriage equality to its thousands of citizens denied that right simply because they are in love with a member of the same sex. That is discrimination. That is enforcing second class citizenship. That is immoral. That is cruel. That is wrong.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have come out of the dark ages of fear, ignorance, and most sadly, hatred. On Election Day, three states, Washington, Maine and Maryland legalized gay marriage, and Minnesota defeated a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Illinois continues to trail the inexorable march to full marriage equality and the ultimate end of all legal vestiges of discrimination against gays.
In 1954, Illinois created its state motto, "Land of Lincoln", and enshrined it on every license plate forever. It sparked in this civil libertarian an endless interest in the life and work of Abraham Lincoln. His vision and wisdom and compassion for his fellow man, and his ability as President to translate that into real progress for the mis-treated and less fortunate among us, has inspired me for nearly 60 years. That was reinforced in a profound two hours spent viewing the film "Lincoln". The movie focused on Lincoln's relentless drive to have Congress pass the 13th Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery in January, 1865. A few opponents of slavery wavered about voting YES for fear of political reprisal, even assassination, should they vote their conscious. Ultimately, enough found the moral courage to face down their fears and end the monstrous enslavement of their fellow man in America.
I suspect that a number of Illinois legislators, including my own here in the still fearful western suburbs, are grappling with their own conscious over the upcoming marriage equality vote. Maybe they should all view a private screening of "Lincoln' just before the vote. It just might bring them an epiphany of enlightenment to push this long overdue measure over the finish line of progress. In so doing they will allow the soul of The Great Emancipator to rest a little more easily in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery, knowing that the Land of Lincoln is no worse than state number 10, and not consigned to the ignominy of possibly being state number 50, to enter modernity. Only they can decide.
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