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Poll Says N.W. Side Voters Back Gay Marriage, but State Rep Still on Fence

By  Heather Cherone and Josh McGhee | October 21, 2013 7:33am 

  Supporters of gay marriage hope the poll will sway State Rep. John D'Amico to vote yes on the measure.
Poll Finds Support for Gay Marriage on Far Northwest Side
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SAUGANASH — Nearly two-thirds of Democratic voters on the Far Northwest Side support same-sex marriage, according to a new poll commissioned by activists gearing up for a possible vote this week by the Illinois House.

Same-sex marriage supporters are using the poll to turn up the heat on State Rep. John D'Amico, the only Democratic member of the Illinois House representing Chicago who has not pledged to support the legislation, which may be brought to the floor in this week's veto session.

D'Amico represents the 15th Illinois House District, which includes parts of Mayfair, North Park, Forest Glen, Sauganash, Edison Park and several Northwest Suburbs. 

Sixty-six percent of voters who cast ballots in Democratic primaries support efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, while 24 percent are opposed, according to the poll released by Illinois Unites for Marriage Equality.

D'Amico, who did not return repeated phone messages left by DNAinfo Chicago, told the Chicago Sun-Times this week that he was still undecided on the measure and acknowledged that he was being lobbied hard by both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage.

D'Amico voted no in 2010 on a bill that gave gay and lesbian couples the option of civil unions with many of the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

Chai Wolfman, 33, her partner, Mandi Hinkley, recently met with D'Amico at his Mayfair office to urge him to allow the couple — parents of 3-year-old twin girls — to get married.

"We're just as worthy as everyone else to be treated fairly and equally under the law in our state and it's sad that the message that we're sending now to our kids is that our family is inferior because it's not," said Wolfman, whose family lives in Sauganash Park. "I think that needs to change."

Wolfman and Hinkley were among eight same-sex marriage supporters who lobbied D'Amico in person.

Wolfman said she was dismayed D'Amico, 51, is undecided. 

"It sounds like someone is undecided about whether my family and my relationship is worthy of being treated fairly and equally," Wolfman said. "That's the whole heart of the issue. It's hurtful. It's sad. It's frustrating."

In May, Illinois legislators failed to vote on gay marriage after Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said he did not have enough support to call the vote, angering marriage advocates. Activists plan to march in Springfield Tuesday to demand a positive result.

More than 73 percent of Democratic voters in the 39th, 41st and 45th wards on the Far Northwest Side support same-sex marriage, according to the poll.

D'Amico's aunt, Ald. Margaret Laurino, represents the 39th Ward, which also includes parts of Mayfair and Sauganash.

A quarter of likely Democratic voters are more likely to vote for D'Amico if he supports same-sex marriage, according to the poll. More than half said it would make no difference to them, and 12 percent said they would be less likely to cast their ballot for him if he supported the measure.

Support for gay marriage topped 55 percent among Democratic voters older than 65, and voters younger than 35 said they supported the measure by more than 80 percent, the poll said.

Sixty-four percent of Democratic voters who identified themselves as Catholic said they supported gay marriage, as did 61 percent of Protestants, according to the telephone poll of 351 likely Democratic voters from Sept. 4 through Sept. 7.

Conducted by Lisle-based Fako & Associates, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.