After much heated debate, a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex couples passed both houses of the Illinois state legislature this week, with strong support from Governor Pat Quinn.
Some particularly colorful speeches were given on the floor of the General Assembly during the debate. In the House, Rep. Ron Stephens warned that the Roman Empire fell because it tolerated homosexuality. On the Senate side, Rickey Hendon called some of his colleagues -- who were arguing for the sanctity of marriage -- "adulterers and womanizers and folks cheating on their wives and down low brothers."
One rather eloquent speaker among the fray was Senator Mike Noland, a Democrat from Chicago's northwest suburbs.
Turns out, he was a bit too eloquent.
Rich Miller of Capitol Fax pointed out in a post today that Noland's floor speech bears some pretty striking resemblances to John F. Kennedy's famous speech on civil rights of June 11, 1963, the day the Alabama National Guard paved the way for two black students to enter that university's campus.
We've included videos of the two speeches for comparison. One particularly obvious moment occurs right at the beginning, where Noland takes one of Kennedy's most famous lines with only the slightest alteration:
Kennedy (1:08): "[America] was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened."
Noland (0:38): Our nation was founded, Mr. President, upon the principal that with the respect to our pursuit of happiness each of us are created equal one to another and the rights of everyone are diminished when the rights of any one of us are threatened.
Later in the speech, there's an extended section that Noland writes in direct parallel to Kennedy:
Kennedy (3:23): This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue.
Noland (1:38) This is not a regional issue in our state, for difficulties and discrimination based on gender exist in every city, every county, every enclave of Illinois, producing in many instances chronic frustration and even depression, that may drive some individuals to extreme acts fo desperation. Neither should this be a partisan issue. We have come far on the issue of civil rights, and today good men and women on both sides of the aisle should be able to unite behind this very straightforward issue and set aside matters of party and politics. So ultimately, this is not even a legal or legislative issue, for the law alone cannot change what is in our hearts. We are at long last confronted with a moral issue.
Watch the videos, see for yourself, and tell us what you think. For a transcript of more similarities between the speeches, check out Capitol Fax's coverage.