January 2, 2013
By Gerald Farinas
Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and two openly lesbian Illinois state representatives responded on Wednesday morning to the year-end rebuke of legislators, by Cardinal Francis George — Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago — for taking up a same-sex marriage bill.
At the same time, a new letter by the archbishop was being delivered to lawmakers in Springfield.
In a launch of actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s and fiancé Justin Mikita’s Bow Tie Lobby Day campaign for marriage equality, Reps. Kelly Cassidy and Deborah Mell answered questions regarding George’s description of same-sex marriage as against natural law.
“Civil laws that establish same-sex marriage create a legal fiction,” George wrote in a letter to his priests. “The state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible.”
Simon, a former family law professor, was the first to address the Catholic Church’s argument.
“There’s a lot of ways that we put together families that don’t involve reproduction,” she said. “There are many people who are beyond reproductive years and we allow them to marry. We encourage them to marry when they’re in a loving relationship.”
“Adoption law is not natural, it’s a legal fiction that builds a family. My brother is adopted. My granddaughter is adopted. It’s not a part of natural law but it’s certainly a part of how we build our families,” Simon added.
Cassidy, a powerful advocate of the bill, explained that the Senate will move to vote on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act as soon as Jan. 3, and would most likely be taken to the House chamber for its vote before Jan. 8, the last day of the current legislative lame duck session.
“I do this not just as a legislator, but also as a mom with three kids,” Cassidy said. “I want the world to be better for them. I want them to know that our family is a family like any other in this state.”
Mell’s eyes were visibly welling in tears as her wife, Christin Baker stood by. The state representative recalled her recent breast cancer surgeries and Baker’s place in her health crises.
“I will sit down and argue with anyone what it is to be in a marriage, and what a wonderful wife I have. No one can take that away from us,” Mell said.
Before the Chicago press conference, a new letter from George, and other religious leaders, was distributed to members of the General Assembly. The letter called on lawmakers to preserve marriage, repeating the argument that natural order and religious freedom are at stake.
“If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations — regardless of deeply held beliefs — will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations,” the letter said. “Compulsion of this nature is a violation of personal conscience and of religious liberty.”
Clergy of the Anglican Church in North America, Catholic Conference of Illinois, Council of Islamic Organizations, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, signed the interfaith message.