THE LOOP — Joined by federal and state lawmakers Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised those who worked to pass same-sex marriage in Illinois earlier this year.
Emanuel, who spoke at a brunch hosted by Equality Illinois at the J.W. Marriott in the Loop, thanked those who helped pass the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which took effect last week.
"This is a milestone, a great milestone, but we have many, many more miles to travel on this journey," Emanuel said. "There is no longer straight marriage or gay marriage. There is only marriage in the eyes of the law and the eyes of two people who love each other."
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law last November, making Illinois the 16th state to put a same-sex marriage law on its books. Emanuel, who has at times butted heads with the governor, praised Quinn for making sure "we never gave in, never gave up as a state" when it came to marriage equality.
"This law would not be possible if it wasn't for the leadership we have in our governor's office," Emanuel said. "Thank you, governor."
Art Johnston, co-founder of Equality Illinois who served as emcee for the event, also praised the governor and other lawmakers for their work. He also took a shot at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, who said he would have vetoed the bill.
"We have a governor whose moral compass always points to fairness and equality," Johnston said of Quinn, calling him the "most pro-gay governor in the history of Illinois."
In a brief speech, Quinn also said marriage equality would not be law if he were not elected in 2010, but the governor also thanked everyone who worked to pass the bill.
"The great victories of our democracy in our country have always sprung from the grassroots up, everyday people knowing what has to be done, banning together for causes they believe in," Quinn said.
Quinn joked how hard it was on his hand to physically sign the marriage equality bill. Quinn, who always gives pens he uses to sign bills to supporters, said he used 100 pens to sign the bill in November.
"The signatures looked a little squiggly there," he said. "But we had to make sure that all the people who had such a key role in making this important reform possible had some memento of that special day."
Art Johnston spoke about the "long, excruciating path" to pass marriage equality in Illinois. Johnston, longtime owner of Sidetrack in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood, spoke about the discrimination the city's gay community endured in the 1970's through today.
"We had to work our way through the psychological damage of nearly complete societal rejection, and we did," Johnston said. "Our community lived on and grew stronger because we knew in our hearts a simple truth that love is love."
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