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Opinion: Illinois Is Ready For Gay Marriage.Nation Isn't.

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Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants the General Assembly to send him a same-sex marriage bill during next month’s lame duck session.

“I hope that bill goes forward,” Quinn said of the measure, which is sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, one of three openly homosexual House members. “It’s the House that probably the key arena at this time, and I think we’ll see how the members look at that issue. They should study it carefully and vote their conscience.”
 
At the same time, the Supreme Court is planning to hear arguments on two gay rights measures: the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, and of California’s Proposition 8, a referendum that not only banned gay marriage in the state, but invalidated thousands of existing same-sex marriages.
 
Here’s hoping that the General Assembly legalizes gay marriage in Illinois -- but that the Supreme Court doesn’t legalize gay marriage nationwide. As Emily Bazelon wrote in Slate, that would be forcing the issue on states that aren’t ready for it yet.
 
there are 100,000 LGBT couples who are now married in the United States (31 percent of whom are raising children). That’s a huge stride forward, and public opinion polls are moving in the same direction. But that doesn’t mean the Supreme Court is ready to order up gay marriage in the states that don’t have it yet. Or even that the justices should. Deciding that same-sex couples in states with same-sex marriage should receive the federal pensions and military benefits that are their due—that’s a manageable mouthful to chew. The Supreme Court should take the small bite now and leave the rest of the pie for later.
 
The analogue here is the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in every state, at a time when only a few liberal state legislatures had approved it. The resulting backlash led to the rise of the religious right as a force in American politics, and a conservative ascendancy that lasted for decades. 
 
Gay marriage is right for Illinois, where 47 percent of voters endorsed it in a recent poll. It’s not going to be right for Texas, and it’s not worth risking another right-wing reaction by forcing it on Texas. Besides, if we have gay marriage and Texas doesn’t, that sends a message to tolerant, creative types that we’re a progressive state, and Texas isn’t.

 

This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.

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