State Representative Deb Mell took the floor in Springfield on Wednesday for a point of personal privilege: she wanted to announce her engagement.
"Two weeks ago I asked Christin Baker to marry me, and she said yes," Mell told the assembled legislature, eliciting warm applause from her colleagues.
(Scroll down to watch Rep. Mell's floor speech.)
Of course, she won't be able to be married in Illinois, as same-sex marriages aren't recognized in this state. With that in mind, she recognized it as a moment of mixed emotions.
"While this is a happy day, and one to celebrate, it is also bittersweet," Mell said. "Life can be tough even on a good day, so I believe if you find that person who you want to spend the rest of your life with, regardless if you're gay or straight it should be honored and celebrated."
In a stirring and emotional show of support, seven fellow legislators rose after Mell to congratulate her and Baker on their engagement. Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, from Chicago, teared up as she remembered the early stages of Mell's and Baker's relationship, and vowed to fight for marriage equality in Illinois.
"It is my dream that you could celebrate this in our state, and your relationship only fortifies my desire to make it happen. God bless you," Feigenholtz said.
Greg Harris, another representative from Chicago, also gave an impassioned speech, concluding, "I hope one day that you and I will still both be here when we can celebrate those legal rights and responsibilities being shared equally among every family in Illinois."
Reps. Baker, Nekritz, Beaubien and Jackson also rose to congratulate the couple. And Mike Zalewski, the father of a newborn, jokingly offered to give Rep. Mell his baby for the night, "to enjoy the full benefits of married life and what it's gonna be like."
Still, marriage equality is a long way off in Illinois, with bills stalled in committee and unlikely to see debate in a crammed legislative session. But Rep. Mell and countless others hope that this announcement will create some statewide momentum for the issue.
Watch Rep. Mell's remarks:
Watch legislators chime-in on Mell's engagement:
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