An Illinois representative formerly undecided on the state's marriage equality bill who'd been targeted by both marriage equality supporters and opponents said in an interview this week that he plans to vote yes on the legislation.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, a Democrat representing Oak Park and part of Chicago's West Side, told the Wednesday Journal in a Monday interview that he believes "the time has come" for legal same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Ford partially credited his support for the bill to the respect he has for marriage equality bill's lead sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat.
"This will go down in history as an example of how to effect change in the world," Ford told the paper.
Ford is one member of the state House's Black Caucus, which has been extensively lobbied by advocates on both sides of the issue in recent months.
The 20 black members of the state House have long been identified as the key "swing" vote that could determine the fate of the pending bill, prompting the National Organization for Marriage and a group of socially conservative African-American ministers led by the Rev. James Meeks to target the lawmakers' constituents with robo-calls opposing same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, a competing group of black religious leaders has spoken out in favor of marriage equality in Illinois.
With the state's spring legislative session set to end on Friday, the marriage equality bill must be passed by the House by that date or risk being delayed for many months more. Rep. Harris told the Windy City Times last week he will "absolutely" call the bill to a vote before the session's end.
Harris has repeatedly stated in recent months he would not call for a vote on the bill in the House unless he was sure supporters had lined up the 60 votes they need for the measure's approval.
As the state Senate has already OKed the bill in a Valentine's Day vote and Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign it into law, the House vote is the only remaining obstacle to legal same-sex marriage in Illinois.