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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Illinois.

2013-JAN: Nuns & dissident Catholic group
support SSM group.
Bill temporarily advances.

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This topic is continued from a previous essay.

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2013-JAN-02: Coalition of nuns & a dissident evangelical Catholic group support SSM bill:

Sister Donna Quinn, the Chicago-based coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns -- a group of over 2,000 nuns -- said that marriage equality is about fairness and respecting the people in loving, committed same-sex relationships. She said:

"It’s more of a belief in people, in all people, gay and lesbian and â€" it doesn’t matter. Their choice to marry is important and the benefits are crucial for their living, their livelihood, and the children they raise."

Her statement once more emphasizes the widening gap between the Roman Catholic laity and the Catholic hierarchy, such as Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago who argued from the Church's interpretation of Natural Law. He wrote:

"Civil laws that establish ‘same sex marriage’ create a legal fiction The State has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible."

Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Project at The Civil Rights Agenda commented:

"I think the support from the religious community is heartwarming. It’s critical. It’s critical to counter the anti-gay fundamentalists and Catholic bishops."

Various national polls since 2011 have indicated that most American adults now support same-sex marriage, that the margin in favor of SSM is growing, and that the Catholic laity is, on average, more supportive that the the average American.

Bishop Alan Wilkowski of the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest left the Roman Catholic Church and joined the Chicago-based Evangelical Catholic Church -- a small, dissident denomination not in communion with Rome. Their policies differ from those of the Roman Catholic Church in many areas of human sexuality, such as ordination of women, married clergy, and blessing loving committed same-sex relationships. 7

Bishop Wilkowski is promoting the SSM bill among Illinois legislators. He debunks:

"... the myths advocated in the Cardinal’s letter. ... Based on our baptismal promise, I think that as men an women of faith, we have a right and obligation to enhance and protect the civil and human rights of all people. When religious communities â€" when they recognize their obligation as stewards of God’s creating â€" we have to do everything possible to improve the lives of all people. We cannot sit by silently and let people get relegated to less than equal status than other people. ... We don’t live in a theocracy. For the Cardinal to state that because of Roman Catholic ecclesiology, civil law must mirror that â€" that is voicing their beliefs on every man and woman in this state. ..."

"There’s never been a set concept of what marriage is. If we go back to before Christianity, marriage was simply for procreation. Men had wives, it was simply for the purpose of procuring male offspring. That was considered the norm for centuries."

"The Cardinal’s letter insults the intelligence of men and women by reducing natural law to some sort of circus [sexual] acrobatic act. The vocation of marriage is more than what one does in the bedroom. It is how two people come together, sharing their faith and the Holy Spirit in their lives. What do they do to build up the kingdom of God on Earth." 8

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2013-JAN-03: SSM bill temporarily advances in the Senate:

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage declared a "Big Win in Illinois!" His Email said:

"We've just received word that Illinois Democrats have canceled plans to vote on same-sex marriage this week, unable to secure enough support to guarantee passage. Publicly, they're saying that it's just because some of their supporters are out of town, but we are hearing that your pressure is part of the reason legislators don't want to vote on this issue.

There's a long way to go, but suddenly same-sex marriage in Illinois isn't as inevitable as everyone said."

However, in reality, the voting process moved forward. By a vote of 8 to 5, the Senate Executive Committee advanced the SSM bill. All of the Democrats voted in favor; all of the Republicans voted against the bill. Spectators in the crowded room gave the committee a standing ovation. Many embraced each other. The bill will be now sent to the full Senate.

State Democratic Senator Heather Steans (D) and Rep. Greg Harris (D) hoped to have the Senate vote on the bill before JAN-09 when the lame duck session concludes. This would improve the chances of the bill passing, because there are probably some Republicans who have not be re-elected for the next session of the legislature who will feel more open to vote for SSM according to their conscience and in opposition to their party's platform.

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki testified before the committee against the bill on behalf of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. He said that religious:

"Marriage is neither two men nor two women. This will radically redefine what marriage is for everybody.

In reality, the bill would only redefine what civil marriage means in the state. The "one man, one woman" definition of religious marriage used by the Roman Catholic Church and conservative faith groups would remain unchanged.

The Thomas More Society -- a Roman Catholic legal defense group -- also testified against the bill. A letter signed by Society President Thomas Brejcha and Executive Director Peter Breen said that by approving the bill, legislators will:

"... declare constituents who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman to be bigots and discriminators."

Actually, no such statement or implication if found in the text of the bill. We suspect that the Society means that some people will interpret the passage of the bill as implying bigotry and discrimination on the part of persons who believe that both civil and religious marriage should be a special privilege restricted to opposite-sex couples . 1

That is a very real concern to many religious and social conservatives. During late 2012 and early 2013, we have noted many religious and social conservatives who have expressed this fear on the Internet and in the media. Their concern is quite valid. Consider the most recent major change in marriage law. It occurred in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia to legalize interracial marriages across the U.S. It was an unpopular decision at the time because 72% of American adults opposed interracial marriage. But a Pew poll in 2011 -- some 44 years later -- shows that only 11% of adults still believed that "more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the worse." Many people today would probably consider that 11% to be racial bigots. If the trend towards acceptance of same-gender sexual behavior by persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation continue into the future, and if the trend towards an increasing number of states that have legalized SSM continue, then one might expect charges of homophobic bigotry towards those who oppose SSM to increase.

By their comments, it would seem that both Bishop Paprocki and the Thomas More Society expect the bill to pass the Legislature and be signed into law.

Theresa Volpe , 47, testified before the committee along with Mercedes Santos. They have been together for 21 years, and were "civil unionized" in mid-2011 when unions first became available. They have two children. Volpe described to the committee how she was banned from her son's intensive care hospital room in a hospital because the administrator did not know that a civil union gave her the right to be with her son. She said about the vote:

"This is a great feeling; we feel it's about time."

On JAN-04, Senator Steans appeared on MSNBC and said:

"We have a number of denominations in many different faith traditions already supporting us. The real goal is here is that we’re not really redefining religious marriage. This [bill involves] ... civil marriage and it will be up to every religious faith, tradition to practice their own beliefs." 2

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joanne von Alroth, "Same-sex marriage bill heads to Illinois state Senate floor," Reuters, 2013-JAN-05, at:
  2. Traci G. Lee, "Same-sex marriage bill advances in Illinois Senate," MSNBC, 2013-JAN-03, at:
  3. Dan Avery, "IL State Sen. Introduce Same-Sex Marriage Bill In New Legislative Session." Queerty, 2012-JAN-09, at:
  4. Text of the Religious Freedom-Marriage Act is available at:
  5. "Open letter from Illinois business leaders on marriage equality," Chicago Phoenix, 2013-JAN, at:
  6. Tony Merevick, "Google, Groupon, dozens of business leaders back Illinois same-sex marriage bill," Chicago Phoenix, 2013-JAN-13, at:
  7. Deacon Greg Kandra, "Priest faces excommunication for starting new parish," Patheos, 2012-AUG-22, at:
  8. Tony Merevick, "Coalition of nuns, evangelical Catholic group back Illinois gay marriage bill," Chicago Phoenix, 203-JAN-02, at:

Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2013-JAN-03
Latest update: 2013-JAN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson
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