The fight for marriage equality in Illinois has nearly reached fever pitch as Springfield lawmakers are poised to start debating the issue as early as Wednesday night.

Gun control and same-sex marriage are two of the contentious issues the Illinois General Assembly is considering during the lame-duck session, reports NBC Chicago. An affirmative vote for the latter would make Illinois the 10th state in the union to allow gay marriage.

On Wednesday, advocates for same-sex marriage received a boost of support from several--and arguably disparate--camps, including a tinseltown celebrity, a GOP chairman and local black community leaders.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, star of the ABC sitcom "Modern Family." appeared at a news conference Wednesday with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, reports NBC. The openly-gay actor attended the news conference with his fiance, who NBC reports Ferguson plans on marrying this year.

(Watch Jesse Tyler Ferguson's statement in the video below.)

"To look at marriage equality this way, to not accept everyone is an extremely bigoted opinion," said Ferguson.

To symbolize "tying the knot," the actor is launching a "Bow Tie Lobby Day" in Springfield Thursday, reports WBEZ.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady called on his fellow Republicans Wednesday to support the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. The Daily Herald reports Brady's efforts comes as a citizen, and not as part of his official role with the Illinois Republican Party.

"I think it's time for people to support this," Brady said.

Also on Wednesday, DNAinfo Chicago reported several influential African-American members of the city's political, community, business and religious leaders signed a letter in support of the act.

"I think it's about time," said Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver, rector of St. Edmund's Episcopal Church in Woodlawn. "Black voters support this."

Tolliver was among the signatories that included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Urban League President and Board of Education member Andrea Zopp and Johnson Publishing Chief Executive Officer Desiree Rogers.

The looming vote has drawn marriage equality opponents as well.

On Tuesday, Chicago Cardinal Francis George launched a last-ditch campaign to convince the legislature not to legalize same-sex marriage. Cardinal George wrote that government "has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible."

Civil rights advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda blasted the Cardinal's letter, calling his remarks "divisive."

“It is unfortunate for Cardinal George that he has chosen not to join the growing number of religious leaders and faithful lay people across Illinois--including many devout Catholics,” said Rick Garcia, Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and Senior Policy Advisor of The Civil Rights Agenda in a statement.

Garcia, who in the statement is identified as a practicing Catholic himself goes on to say "how the Church--or any faith--views marriage within it’s own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right."

The bill is expected to be introduced this week and debated before a new set of legislators is sworn in on Jan. 9.

Also on HuffPost:

View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.


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  • New York

    New York lawmakers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/24/new-york-gay-marriage_n_907901.html" target="_blank">legalized same-sex marriage on July 24, 2011</a>, making it the largest state at the time to pass such legislation.

  • Maryland

    Voters in Maryland <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/gay-marriage-victory_n_2085900.html" target="_blank">approved marriage equality in the November 2012 election</a>. Initially, the gay marriage bill was signed into law by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on March 1, 2012, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force the issue back onto the ballot. With the passing of marriage equality, same-sex marriage <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/31/maryland-gay-marriage_n_2389044.html" target="_blank">ceremonies began on Jan. 1, 2013</a>.

  • Connecticut

    Connecticut's Supreme Court <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/10/connecticut-gay-marriage_n_133605.html" target="_blank">ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry on Nov. 12, 2008</a>, making it the third state in the nation to do achieve marriage equality.

  • Iowa

    Iowa's Supreme Court <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/03/iowa-gay-marriage-ban-rul_n_182782.html" target="_blank">ruled the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional</a> on April 3, 2009.

  • Maine

    Maine <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/gay-marriage-victory_n_2085900.html" target="_blank">made history in the November 2012 election</a> when it became the first state to pass marriage equality on the ballot. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said, "Voters in Maine came to the common-sense conclusion that all people deserve the ability to make loving, lifelong commitments through marriage." Just three years ago, a popular vote overturned legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

  • Massachusetts

    Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-legal-same-sex-marriage-performed-in-massachusetts" target="_blank"> legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, 2004</a>. The state's Supreme Court initially found the ban on gay marriage unconstitutional on Nov. 18, 2003.

  • New Hampshire

    Same-sex couples were able to <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-6042937.html" target="_blank">begin seeking marriage licenses</a> on Jan. 1, 2010.

  • Vermont

    Vermont, which invented civil unions, became <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/07/vermont-legalizes-gay-mar_n_184034.html" target="_blank">the first state to legalize gay marriage through a legislature's vote</a> -- overriding the governor's veto. Same-sex couples were able to begin marrying on Sept, 1, 2009.

  • Washington D.C.

    Gay couples were able to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/01/gay-marriage-dc-council-p_n_375435.html" target="_blank">begin marrying in the nation's capital</a> on March 9, 2010.

  • California

    The state initially began conducting gay marriages on June 16, 2008. On November 5, 2008, however, California <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/proposition-8-timeline_n_3503512.html" target="_blank">voters passed Proposition 8</a>, which amended the state's constitution to declare marriage as only between a man and a woman. On June 26, 2013, by a 5-4 vote, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/hollingsworth-v-perry-ruling_n_3438269.html" target="_blank">the Supreme Court justices held in Hollingsworth v. Perry</a> that the traditional marriage activists who put Proposition 8 on California ballots in 2008 did not have the constitutional authority, or standing, to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial, opening the door for marriages to resume in the state.

  • Washington

    On February 13, 2012, Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/13/washington-gay-marriage-signed-chris-gregoire_n_1273887.html" target="_blank">signed a law allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies</a> to begin on June 7, 2012. The process was delayed by gay marriage opponents who gathered enough signatures to put the issue up to a state vote in November 2012. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/washington-gay-marriage-law_n_2266574.html" target="_blank">Gay marriage passed on November 7, 2012.</a> The official determination for Washington did not come until one day after the election because of the state's mail-in voting system.

  • Rhode Island

    Gay marriage came to Rhode Island when Governor Lincoln Chafee <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/gay-marriage-minnesota-rhode-island_n_3686034.html" target="_blank">signed the marriage equality bill</a> into law on May 2, 2013.

  • Delaware

    Delaware obtained gay marriage when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/delaware-gay-marriage-law-_n_3232771.html" target="_blank">Governor Jack Markell signed the marriage equality bill it into law</a> on May 7, 2013.

  • Minnesota

    Minnesota same-sex couples achieved marriage equality when Gov. Mark Dayton signed the legislation into law <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/minnesota-gay-marriage-legal-_n_3275484.html" target="_blank">on May 14, 2013</a>.

  • New Jersey

    Newark Mayor Cory Booker <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/20/cory-booker-same-sex-marriage_n_4134116.html?&ir=Gay%20Voices&utm_hp_ref=gay-voices" target="_blank">began marrying same-sex couples</a> at City Hall at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2013.

  • Hawaii

    Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same-sex marriage into law on Nov. 13, 2013, making it the 15th state to pass such legislation.

  • Illinois

    Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage, with the House <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/illinois-gay-marriage_n_4220793.html" target="_blank">having passed the bill on Nov. 5</a>. and Gov. Pat Quinn signing the legislation on Nov. 20.

  • New Mexico

    On Dec. 19, the New Mexico Supreme Court <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/new-mexico-gay-marriage_n_4474507.html?ir=Gay%20Voices" target="_blank">unanimously ruled</a> that same-sex marriage rights are protected under the Constitution.