CHICAGO — The outcomes of Supreme Court discussions concerning gay marriage this week won't change the need for Illinois to pass its own gay marriage bill as soon as possible, advocates said Tuesday.
Supreme Court justices heard arguments Tuesday challenging California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Wednesday, the court will consider whether the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, is constitutional.
"What happens in the Supreme Court is important but that does not relieve the responsibility of the Illinois Legislature to act now," said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. " ...There are crucial rights at stake for Illinois families today."
The Illinois Senate passed gay marriage bill SB10 last month. It is expected to go through the House of Representatives this session. Legislators are currently on break.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, said things look good for the gay marriage bill to become law in Illinois.
"Every day that goes by we're hearing from more and more legislators that … want to be on the right side of history," he said. "We passed that bill with a lopsided vote in the Senate. ... I really feel we are closing in on the vote we need to pass the bill."
For a controversial issue like gay marriage, the Supreme Court will not likely make a broad decision, so that it can give the nation more time to "sift these things through," Taylor said.
"Concern was expressed that the court not be too out front of public opinion," Taylor said of the justices' discussion Tuesday. "The Supreme Court isn’t going to make a sweeping decision anytime soon."
Regardless, Illinois needs to act soon so that gay couples in Illinois can enjoy the rights that same-sex couples do, advocates agree.
"There are variety of ways and possible outcomes," Cherkasov said of the high court's hearings. "All of them would still require action by Illinois."
Hundreds rallied in Chicago Monday in favor of same-sex marriage in anticipation of the Supreme Court hearings.