Throngs of people converged on the Illinois state capitol in Springfield to demand immediate action on a measure to legalize gay marriage, five months after the legislation stalled in the Illinois House.
Tuesday's "March on Springfield" was a grassroots effort with activists and supporters waving flags and signs at a midday concert and rally.
"This is our hour. This is our moment," Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn told the estimated crowd of 3,000 that had gathered under a cold rain.
Quinn was flanked by other top state officials, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and Senate President John Cullerton. Not in attendance was House Speaker Michael Madigan, who supports the measure but has yet to have the bill called in his chamber.
"Speaker Madigan, put your House in order," one sign read.
The Senate approved a measure -- SB10 -- in February, but it stalled in the House leaving deep disappointment among activists. House Speaker Michael Madigan has said about a dozen votes are still needed.
"The spring session turned out to be very disappointing for LGBT Illinoisans and for our supporters," Mitchell Locin, a spokesman for Equality Illinois, said in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood Tuesday morning before boarding a bus loaded with supporters making the trip to Springfield.
"We were angry but we came back and fought back all through the summer and into the early fall and organized throughout Illinois ... and so today is not a culmination of that, today is a beginning of a three-week period when the legislature returns and we hope that our message is clear that now is the time to pass marriage equality," he said.
Among those making the trip are longtime partners Mary Jo Graden and Hilary Marsh, who've been wanting to marry in Illinois since well before their civil union.
"Because we're not married, I'm on her health insurance and we have to pay extra taxes [from] every single paycheck," said Marsh. "We don't have the benefit of each other's Social Security, even though we've both worked our entire careers."
Opponents of the bill scheduled a follow-up rally for Wednesday. A group of African American clergy who oppose the measure also recorded radio ads in which they urge listeners to call lawmakers and tell them to vote no.
"We stand united with our brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in our joint opposition to any deviation from traditional marriages of male and female, notwithstanding the rulings of the court systems of the land or acts of legislative bodies in support of same-sex "marriage,'" Bishop Larry Trotter said in a written statement.
Quinn signed Illinois' civil unions law in 2011. At least 13 states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. New Jersey's first gay marriages just began Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.