The same-sex marriage bill that was believed dead after the Illinois House decided to not bring it to a vote last night may be getting a second chance at life. Last night, the bill’s chief sponsor, Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris announced tearfully that several House lawmakers “asked for time to talk to their constituents and reach out to their minds and hearts,” before deciding how to vote. Harris promised to bring the bill back in November, drawing loud condemnation in the House chamber and throughout LGBT circles over the past day.
But news comes now that the bill’s deadline has been extended from yesterday into August, and the legislation may be brought to the House floor in a special summer session. The move would allow lawmakers enough time to “to talk to their constituents and reach out to their minds and hearts.”
Acknowledging that a “deadline extension by itself resolves none of the political problems associated with the bill’s opponents,” the Illinois Observer reports:
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) acted quietly on Friday night before the House adjourned to extend the bill’s deadline for approval until August 31.
The Observer theorizes, “were Governor Pat Quinn to call lawmakers back to Springfield in the summer for a special session to address pension reform, which also was left without resolution, he could include Senate Bill 10 in a special session proclamation.”
If Quinn declines to include marriage equality in any order to lawmakers to return to Springfield, Madigan could call a House special session of his own at the same time to take up the legislation, an insider noted.
“It’s a fascinating move,” said one, long-time lobbyist. “It suggests that there is plan to get it done.”
A veteran Democratic lawmaker briefed on Madigan’s step said, “A potential summer special session would channel the energy and anger of marriage equality backers into productive versus destructive advocacy.”
Nevertheless, during a summer session, House lawmakers would need to amend the bill and change the effective date from “30 days” from a gubernatorial signature to January 1 in order to avoid a 3/5th or 71 vote requirement, an insurmountable hurdle.
Amending the bill’s effective date would also require an Illinois Senate vote to concur with such a change.
In an extensive editorial-cum-autopsy today, Tracy Baim, Publisher of the Windy City Times in Chicago, calls the situation “complicated and nuanced,” and notes:
The biggest blame has to be placed on the chief sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the Illinois House, Rep. Greg Harris, an openly gay man. If you are out front for the credit when there is victory, you are also out front for the failure. The bill stops there.
Harris made promises he could not keep. In politics, that is a reason to step down. While Harris, who has dedicated his career to LGBT and AIDS issues, deserves the chance to prove his strategy right, if he does not succeed in passing this in the veto session this fall, he should not run for re-election in 2014.
In addition, Harris should step down now as chief sponsor of this legislation. He has proven he is tone deaf to the wishes of both the grassroots and leadership of this community. They almost all called for a vote “no matter what.” Instead, Harris chose to give cover to his political colleagues, rather than follow through on his own on-the-record promise to call for a vote by May 31.
Baim also makes this important observation:
In addition, Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, who is the most powerful man in Springfield, is also to blame. He and the Democrats pushed the LGBT community to help elect a majority in the House. They relied on LGBT votes and dollars. But when it came time to twist arms for this, Madigan did not flex his muscles. He is strategic, and this fight clearly was not for him. When his daughter (state Attorney General Lisa Madigan) runs for governor next year, it will be a difficult ballet she dances for the LGBT community’s support. It may seem unfair (and North Korean-like) to punish the daughter for the father’s sins, but it will likely be the reality.
As we go to press, a rally is taking place now in Chicago.
Expect a good deal of anger and finger pointing.
Image: Inside the Illinois State Capitol yesterday, before the vote that never took place. Photo by Equality Illinois, via Twitter.
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