With less than two weeks to go before their springtime adjournment, Illinois lawmakers are being pressured on whether they will make their state the 13th to approve gay marriage.
On Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton urged members of the Illinois House to vote for gay marriage as a way to strengthen the nation.
"Our nation's permanent mission is to form a 'more perfect union,'" Mr. Clinton said in a statement released by Equality Illinois and numerous other gay-rights websites.
Extending rights to people who have been denied them strengthens the nation, Mr. Clinton said. "Now we should do it again, in Illinois, with marriage equality."
The vote on gay marriage in the Illinois House has been held up all spring after black pastors around the state and especially in Chicago said they would not accept a "yes" vote by their lawmakers.
Their resistance, combined with that of conservative groups and their allies, has kept the Democrat-led chamber from bringing up the vote.
The state Senate passed the bill easily on Valentine's Day. Illinois state leaders, including Gov. Pat Quinn, have urged passage of the bill.
Illinois Unites for Marriage, a coalition led by Lambda Legal, American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Illinois, are rallying support for gay marriage.
Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive of Equality Illinois, recently said at a church event that enacting gay marriage in Illinois "is only a matter of when and not if."
Supporters of traditional marriage, however, say that the gay lobby's "blitzkrieg" — referring to recent gay marriage victories in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota — will probably be stopped by a "pro-family army" in Illinois.
The Illinois Family Institute, Illinois Catholic Conference, African American Pastors Coalition, plus numerous evangelical, Hispanic, Korean and Chinese churches, are keeping pressure on lawmakers to vote no on the bill, according MassResistance, a traditional-values ally in Massachusetts.
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