CITY HALL — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking a direct interest in the gay-marriage debate in Springfield.
The mayor signed his name to a mass-email letter sent out Monday stating: "Here in Illinois, we've always taken the lead" and adding that "now is the time" for the state House to follow the Senate's lead and pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
"The clock is ticking," the letter read. "And I know from talking with several of my friends in Springfield that some members of the House still haven’t decided which way they’ll vote."
The letter includes a link for voters to find their state representative and provides Springfield and district-office phone numbers to call them — as well as a way to send a direct message to the representative in support of the bill.
"What happens in the next week is up to you," Emanuel's email concluded.
State Rep. Greg Harris, lead sponsor of the bill in the House, said he "absolutely" welcomes the mayor's involvement.
"I believe it will have a huge effect," Harris said. "People listen to the mayor. He speaks on behalf of all Chicagoans, and he's saying the time is right to do this."
Harris, whose 13th District includes Ravenswood, Uptown, Andersonville and Lincoln Square, said it was also key to call on voters to play a role, rather than have Emanuel lobby legislators directly.
"Voters have been calling representatives right and left," he added. "People across the state, whether they are the mayor or John or Jane Q. Citizen, are making calls and writing emails."
As lead sponsor in the House, Harris said he gets to decide when to call the vote and that he is waiting for public pressure to build on legislators.
"When we have the votes and the time is right, it will come to the floor," Harris said. While he did not set a timetable and said only that it "will soon come for a vote in the full House," he added, "I believe it will pass."
He said "the vast majority of Illinoisans agree" with the bill designed to grant "equal treatment for all Illinois citizens in the eyes of the law," specifically in same-sex marriages.