"We are engaged."
And with those words, State Representative Deborah Mell renewed an old debate: Should same sex couples in Illinois be allowed to marry?
Mell and her partner of five and a half years, Christin Baker, said on Tuesday evening's edition of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight that they became engaged two weeks ago during a dinner at the Signature Room atop the John Hancock building.
The couple said they intend to travel to Iowa in the fall of 2011 to marry. Iowa is one of five states, along with the District of Columbia, that allows same sex marriages. Illinois lawmakers made the practice illegal in 1996.
Mell represents Illinois' 40th District and is the daughter of Chicago Ald. Dick Mell, sister to Patti Blagojevich and sister-in-law to the impeached and indicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Tueday marks the first anniversary of an Iowa Supreme Court decision allowing for same-sex marriages.
"I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I want to get married in Illinois," said Mell, who was elected to the Illinois legislature in 2008.
"We are going to be legally married in Iowa," said Baker, adding, "I can call Deb my wife."
But the Iowa ceremony will have no legal standing in Illinois, said Paul Caprio, Executive-Director of Family-PAC.
"You have a piece of paper from Iowa and if you want to live in Iowa I guess you are married," he said.
Mell plans to make a more formal announcement on the floor of the Illinois State House on Wednesday, which is also Baker’s 35th birthday.