Seventeen years ago, restricting marriage to one man and one woman was an enormously popular political position. The Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, passed the Senate 85-15 and the House of Representatives 342-67, with only the bravest liberals voting nay. The act’s constitutionality is now before the Supreme Court.
Five of those liberals were from Illinois. In the Senate, Paul Simon and Carol Moseley Braun voted no, making Illinois one of four states not to cast a yes vote, along with Massachusetts, California and Hawaii. Neither senator was up for re-election that year: Simon’s term was ending, but he was retiring. Moseley Braun would run again two years later, and lose.
In the House, where everyone was up for re-election, only two Illinoisans voted no: Luis Gutierrez and Jesse Jackson Jr. Besides Gutierrez, the only members still serving are Bobby Rush and Dick Durbin, who was then a congressman representing a Central Illinois district. Both voted in favor of DOMA.
Durbin has since changed his mind. According to NPR
, he is one of 15 sitting Democrats who voted for DOMA but now oppose it. He cited Sen. Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican who came out for gay marriage after his son came out as gay, as a colleague whose position influenced his own.
“I think about my colleague, Sen. Portman, and his family situation. Mine is not that, but it certainly reflects a lot of friends that I’ve become close to over the years who are now in committed relationships, good people, some raising children,” Durbin told the network. “I just felt at the end of the day, that this really is the civil rights question of our time.”
Rush has also repudiated his support of DOMA. Last year, he was one of 145 House members who signed an amicus brief
calling for repeal of the Act.
Which means Gutierrez is the only member of the Illinois delegation who was in favor of gay rights when it was unpopular, and is still in favor, now that it is popular.