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Bernard Schoenburg: Lt. Gov. Simon to help round up votes for marriage equality 


State Journal-Register
December 1, 2012
By Bernard Schoenburg

Lt. Gov. SHEILA SIMON is lending help to the cause of making same-sex marriage legal in Illinois.

Simon met last week with Rep. GREG HARRIS, D-Chicago, who sponsored the bill that made civil unions legal in the state and hopes to make marriage equality Illinois law as well.

She told Harris she’d be happy to help push for support among lawmakers, “particularly downstaters who need to know that they have an ally downstate, that I’m willing to stand up with them and support them in supporting equality.”

She said she agrees with Harris that “it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when” Illinois takes the step.

“Discrimination is the wrong thing to do, and this is just official discrimination against a category of people,” Simon said. She just celebrated her 25th anniversary with husband PERRY KNOP, but she said they have friends, two women who are a couple, who have been together 27 years, but “don’t get the same recognition.”

“They’re just as supportive of each other,” she said, but they miss out on some benefits married couples have.

So, how to sell this to on-the-fence legislators?

“One of the ways to look at the politics of this is to say, ‘Ask your kids,’” she said. “Our children are, I think, ahead of ourselves in knowing what direction we ought to move. And the young people in the United States are saying overwhelmingly, ‘Yeah, equality is something we ought to demand.’”

Obviously, some disagree, but Simon is heartened by action in the recent election, when voters in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota all voted on ballot questions and came out on the side of gay marriage.

Meanwhile, Equality Illinois, a Chicago-based statewide organization that promotes rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, recently announced the opening of offices in Westmont and Springfield.

The field organizer for central and southern Illinois, based in Springfield, is KRISTY DeWALL. She has a journalism bachelor’s degree and a master’s in higher education administration from Illinois State University, where she led the campus LGBT group. She was raised in the Illinois foster care system and got a master’s in social work at ISU. DeWall spent the past five years in social work with at-risk youth and their families through an agency in Bloomington, where she lived for about 15 years until moving to Springfield in September. She was in the Springfield-based Illinois Air National Guard, from 1997 to 2003.