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.
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