As the gay marriage debate continues across the country, the gay community in Illinois has yet to see much progress on the issue--and one state representative wants to change that today.
Rep. Deb Mell, an outspoken gay rights advocate, will announce her engagement to her partner of more than five years on the House floor Wednesday, she told Carol Marin Tuesday on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."
Mell, daughter of Ald. Richard Mell and sister of Patti Blagojevich, has been with her partner Christin Baker for more than five years--and is tired of waiting to tie the knot.
"I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I want to get married in Illinois," Mell told Marin Tuesday.
The couple told Marin about their April 10 engagement at the Signature Room in the John Hancock Center, where Mell presented Baker with an engagement ring atop Baker's creme brulee during a dinner with Baker's family. The restaurant erupted in applause.
On Wednesday, Mell will ask House Speaker Michael Madigan for permission to address her colleagues--and tell them about her engagement. She said she hopes they see that she and Baker are no different than any other couple in love.
"I really hope that they see us and they see us as a regular couple," Mell said. "We pay taxes, we pay our bills, we have a home together...Please give us our rights."
"We're not to be feared," Baker added.
The couple plans to marry in Iowa--where gay marriage is legal--in the Fall of 2011, but Mell is not thrilled about having to cross the state line to marry.
"I mean, we could go to Iowa, and Iowa's great. I went to school in Iowa," Mell said, "But you know what? It's not the state where I represent. it's not the state where I grew up in. It's not the state I love."
"We are going to be legally married in Iowa," said Baker, adding, "I can call Deb my wife."
Marin asked Baker how she felt about joining the very political Mell family--especially with the trial of Mell's brother-in-law, Rod Blagojevich, slated for this summer.
"It's a fun family, isn't it?" Baker said smiling.
"Gay or straight, I figure you'd have to be madly in love to even consider having Dick Mell and Rod Blagojevich as your in-laws," Marin wrote in her Wednesday column.
Mell was arrested in 2004 while protesting her inability to get a same-sex marriage license from the Cook County clerk's office. She hopes her announcement spark up a conversation on the House floor about gay marriage in Illinois.
WATCH the "Chicago Tonight" segment here: