Ahead of a vote that could come early next month, President Barack Obama is pushing for lawmakers in his home state of Illinois to legalize gay marriage.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet Sunday that the president "believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect" and that, were he still a member of the Illinois state legislature, "he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."
A bill to bring marriage equality to the Prairie State, setting the stage for Illinois to potentially become the tenth state to approve same-sex marriage, will be introduced in early January during the upcoming legislative lame-duck session. The bill has won the support of Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and, per a recent poll, the a majority of Illinoisans.
A spokeswoman for State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) told Reuters last week that Steans believed they have the votes to approve the bill in in the state Senate, but a vote in the state House is expected to be closer. Both legislative bodies boast a supermajority of Democratic lawmakers and bill sponsors have said they will not call a vote unless they have the votes they need to succeed.
If the bill passes, it will mark the first time a Midwest state has approved marriage equality via a legislative vote, WGN notes.
Illinois legalized civil unions, allowing same-sex couples many of the same rights and responsibilities as those in opposite-sex marriages, about a year and a half ago. But the law falls short of granting full marriage rights to Illinoisans in same-sex unions.
Rick Garcia, senior policy advisor of Chicago-based LGBT advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda, applauded the president's remarks on marriage equality.
"Those of us who know the president and have worked with him are not surprised by this," Garcia said in a statement. "Nonetheless I am heartened by his strong support of the Illinois' equal marriage bill and his urging our General Assembly to do the right and fair thing, which is to pass this bill."
Prior to the November election, Obama threw his support behind same-sex marriage ballot measures in Maine, Maryland and Washington. In May, he became the first sitting president to announce his support for marriage equality in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.