January 3, 2013
By Elisabeth Mistretta
An Emmy-nominated actor and Illinois politicians are using a fashion statement to make a political statement.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a star of ABC's comedy "Modern Family," traveled to Naperville and Chicago Wednesday to launch Bow Tie Lobby Day.
The idea was to encourage marriage equality advocates to contact their state legislators on Wednesday and then don their bow ties on Thursday for a Bow Tie Lobby Day in Springfield.
The lobbying effort will urge the General Assembly to pass marriage equality legislation during this month's legislative session.
In addition, Ferguson appeared before the Daily Herald editorial board on Wednesday, where he outlined his Springfield lobbying plans. The Illinois Senate could vote on the issue as early as Thursday.
Simon teamed up with Ferguson not only because he plays an openly gay father on "Modern Family," but because he also has launched a nonprofit foundation called Tie The Knot with his fiance, Justin Mikita.
"They have found a way to turn bow ties into advocacy," Simon said.
The couple's organization sells limited-edition bow ties, with profits going to charitable organizations that are working for marriage equality throughout the country. The bow ties are sold through The Tie Bar, a Naperville-based company that Simon, Ferguson and Mikita visited Wednesday afternoon.
The trio spoke with employees and their families, several of which included same-sex couples.
"We developed this with the very intention of coming to these battleground states," Ferguson said.
Their advocacy comes a day after Cardinal Francis George urged fellow Catholics to oppose the proposed legislation, calling it "legal fiction."
If Illinois passes legislation permitting gay marriage, it would become the 10th state in the nation to do so.
Illinois was the first stop for Ferguson and Mikita, who say they hope to organize other advocacy days in states such as Rhode Island and Minnesota. Both states are slated to vote on the issue during the current legislative session.
To commemorate Wednesday's event, their Tie the Knot foundation released a limited-edition Signature Black Wedding tie which is available through TieTheKnot.org or by visiting TheTieBar.com.