CHATHAM — Democratic state Reps. Elgie Sims and Andre Thapedi, whose districts include the Park Manor, Grand Crossing and Chatham neighborhoods, have both said they personally support same-sex marriages.
They are being targeted by local religious leaders because of it.
The African American Clergy Coalition, a local group of black clergy opposed to the Illinois marriage equality bill, is placing robocalls to constituents of South Side lawmakers who are in favor of gay marriage in Illinois. The calls have caused at least one lawmaker to oppose the bill.
"All legislators should be looking for a constitutional way out when it comes time to vote on the marriage equality bill. It is irresponsible on the part of state lawmakers not to confer with their constituents first before voting on something as controversial as this bill," said Bishop Lance Davis, a member of the AACC and pastor of New Zion Covenant Church in south suburban Dolton.
Sims said the robocalls by the coalition are "one tactic being used as a way to sway the public away from supporting the marriage equality bill, which I personally support.
"With that said, I must take away my personal feelings and vote for legislation my constituents support. And that is the only way I vote."
Thapedi, who voted in favor of civil unions in 2010, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
The battle between local churches and state politicos is lost on some residents, however.
"No one else has come up with a better solution for marriage for these people, and until they do I support them getting married," said Dorothy Tarver, a Chicago Public Schools teacher and Grand Crossing resident. "I know the Bible does not support same-sex marriages, but treating people like animals is downright wrong."
Linda Johnson, a 56-year-old Chatham resident, said she does not have a problem with two men or women being married.
"To each his own. I don't see anything wrong with it. If two people love each other, then they should be able to get married," Johnson said. "I support the same-sex bill and my Rep. Sims' decision to do the same."
Davis said the president has "caved in to political pressure" and has "lost his way."
But younger South Side constituents seem to side with the president.
"You have to do your own thing nowadays. I am all for anything that makes a person happy," said Ken Smith, a 25-year-old engineer and Park Manor resident. "And if I hear one more person quote a Scripture from the Bible to justify why same-sex marriages are a sin, I am going to scream.
"People like to focus on one sin and stick with it. These days it is homosexuality. What about murder, gambling, stealing and lying? Those are all sins, but I don't hear people quoting Scripture to justify doing it."
ReShawn Nelson, a 26-year-old chef, simply said, "If that's what a person wants to do then they should do it."
Gay couple Patrick Bozva, 75 and his partner James Darby, 81, joined representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal last week in a teleconference to discuss pending lawsuits challenging same-sex marriages in Illinois.
On Wednesday, the couple celebrated 50 years as domestic partners.
"Fifty years is a long time to wait to get married," said Darby, a Hyde Park resident. "Same-sex marriage is not about homosexuality, which everyone seems to zero in on. Same-sex marriage is about civil rights and equality, which are different from homosexuality."