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Marriage Equality in Illinois: It's 2013 and this is somehow still something we have to march for

Yesterday I went to a rally in Illinois's capital called the March on Springfield. For those who don't follow 8 million gay news twitter accounts, almost one-third of our nation's states have made marriage equality law, and Illinois still has not. Illinois, the liberal bastion of the Midwest. ILLINOIS, land of Abraham Lincoln, first state east of the Mississippi to grant women the right to vote in presidential elections, first state to strike down anti-sodomy laws -- we are now behind California, New York, New Jersey, all of New England, Maryland, Washington, IOWA AND MINNESOTA. Do you know how embarrassing it is to live in Illinois and have Iowa and Minnesota be more progressive than you?

The marriage equality bill passed our Senate last session, but they didn't have the votes in the House. There's a session going on right now, and the hope is enough work's been done over the summer to pass the bill. A lot of representatives are scared of how their constituents will react and so won't even state their position on it. The rally was to show the support for the bill, and hopefully help sway those on the fence.

The bus for the rally was supposed to leave at 7:30, since Springfield is three hours from Chicago. It was organized by the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches, and I was going with four people from my tiny Presbyterian church. Half the bus was Unitarian, so BLESS YOU, UNITARIANS. I make fun of your beliefs when I've had one or two glasses of wine, but I still love you.

You know when you go outside in the morning, and the moon and the stars still hang aloft in the firmament and you say "Hm. I am maybe not supposed to be awake and outside right now"? NO OF COURSE YOU DON'T BECAUSE NO ONE SHOULD KNOW THAT EXPERIENCE. I woke up at 5:15, which is It was 30 degrees outside, so all of my time before the bus came to take me to the other bus was spent muttering "Idiotic state of dumbness, why do we live here; no one was supposed to live here; we should all be in the south where it's warm and they have giant insects; stupid stupid Illinois and its lameass weather." Then the bus came and my CTA card didn't work and I had a forceful exchange with the bus driver which DIDN'T FEEL LIKE THE BEST WAY TO START THE DAY. But it all worked out in the end, and I got there very early and then this blessed thing happened:

We set off around 8 AM. I accidentally sat next to one of the only other young people on the bus, and we all watched the documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, which I've seen maybe 75 (read: four) times and it is the best. When we pulled into Springfield, we had to put together church signs and then try to hold them + umbrellas, because oh yeah, it was raining and cold.

The signs attached with two screws. Some teamwork
was occasionally required.
So many umbrellas in front of the Capitol

I wasn't planning on talking to my representative, but my church's flagship lesbians were going to talk to theirs...and I was walking with them...and I have no problem insinuating myself into someone else's busy day and demanding they talk to me (if they have a moment). So when they asked if I wanted to talk to mine, I said "Okey dokey." My pastor walked by and saw me, so she decided to come in and offer moral support because she is the best.

Sneakily-taken-from-the-hallway pic

I went into my representative's office and basically just grinned like an idiot at his stern secretary.

"Hello! I would like to speak to Representative Turner. I live in his district."

"You live in his district? Was there anything in particular you wanted to talk to him about?"

"The marriage equality bill?"

And I kept grinning. And grinning. And she finally grinned back and it was awesome. And she got up and went into his office and he came out about a minute later and was SO HANDSOME and I was all "Hello Handsome Representative, I have possibly voted for you or maybe I slept in that day I don't remember, BUT you should vote for the marriage equality bill because it is awesome."

In the midst of saying that. Please note
his handsomeness.

Then he COMPLETELY SURPRISED ME and said he supports the bill for personal reasons, and the district's divided about 50/50, but it was a matter of conscience for him. So if anyone wants to come up with a plan for me marrying my representative, it would be APPRECIATED. And then I think I said "Fantastic" about ten times and made him take a picture with me (as I had been unaware of the one above):


Then I stood holding a church sign for three hours as we listened to speeches and then marched around the Capitol. Now about rally speeches -- look. I get that there're a lot of organizations involved. And you want to have everyone feel represented. But you need to cap it off, organizers. You wouldn't think it, but I do have a limit as to how much I can yell "wooooooo!" So we're standing there, holding our giant church signs, and all of a sudden, a man from the Gay Liberation Network gets up to speak.

Here's the thing. One of the many reasons I know marriage equality is the right thing is because of what it inspires in people. People who are pro-marriage equality are joyous and hopeful and happy about love being recognized. People who are anti- are fearful and angry. Exceptions can be made on both sides, but this man's sign summed it up pretty well:

So when the man from the GLN started speaking, I was at first uncomfortable, then started laughing incredulously as I exchanged stunned looks with my pastor. Because this man was FURIOUS. Just incredibly angry. And while there are reasons to have the most righteous anger imaginable -- needed pensions being denied to surviving spouses, decade-long relationships not allowed the stability of the word 'marriage,' mothers being shut out of the emergency room where their child is dying because 'the mother is already in there and we don't have a form for two' -- these are reasons to be angry, yes, but when it comes to rage-filled, spittle-flying invective against the government and its seeming inability to act, that is not how we do.

We make hilarious signs. And speak honestly about why this is actively hurting us. And look, I'm really sorry if your bakery had to close because you felt it was wrong to make a cake for two women who wanted to get married. But if it's you feeling icky versus emergency room visitation rights? Really don't care about the icky thing.

So the GLN speaker was a shock and the opposite of how everyone else I saw yesterday felt. Well. Aside from that one man who made fun of bishops from one denomination before introducing another bishop who was pro-marriage equality. When the latter got up, he said "May God forgive you for that introduction." WELL-PLAYED, SIR.

After the angry man and everyone else spoke, we marched. They gave us this paper with the chants written down:

First of all. Harris is the main proponent of the bill, and hey, maybe he's working really really hard to get it passed and we should lay off him. Second, THAT LAST CHANT IS THE WORST AND I WILL NEVER SAY IT. One of the people I was walking with asked what it was, and when I told her she said "Oh, I thought it was 'Don't make us say it again.'" Way to improve it by ACCIDENT.

*mutters* "'Don't make us sad again.'"

We didn't march in a full square, because as we were nearing the end, we all saw the buses and after three hours in the cold and the rain, I was at this point:

So BACK ONTO THE BUS, where the girl I had met at eight o'clock that morning fell asleep on my shoulder, because marching and long bus rides conquer all social protocol. Everyone had been up since at least six and everyone had stood in the cold for hours and hours, and EVERYONE was in an awesome mood and nothing but kind and courteous. Successful marriage rallying all around.

Illinois, you better pass this soon.


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