Definition of marriage could be voted on in November
Supporters of a state constitutional amendment to define "marriage" as only for male-female couples are in the final stretch of a push to collect enough signatures to put an advisory referendum on November election ballots.
How close they are to their goal is unclear. Joetta Deutsch, a Taylorville resident and board member for Protect Marriage Illinois, declined to say Monday how many signatures the organization has gathered.
She said that Protect Marriage Illinois is shooting for more than 300,000 signatures statewide. That figure would exceed the required number of about 270,000 signatures, but organizers want to ensure their effort survives even if some signatures eventually are thrown out as invalid.
The signatures must be submitted to the State Board of Elections by May 5 to get the advisory referendum on Nov. 4 ballots, Deutsch said. Protect Marriage Illinois has set an April 30 deadline for church groups and other supporters to submit signed petitions because the organization needs time to process the paperwork.
"If we don’t get it on the November ballot, we’ll start over again, probably in November," she said.
If Protect Marriage Illinois succeeds, voters this fall would be asked in a non-binding referendum if the Illinois General Assembly should propose a constitutional amendment that states:
"To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as marriage or similar union for any purpose."
Deutsch and other Protect Marriage Illinois volunteers hope that voters can decide in the 2010 election on a binding referendum to amend the Illinois Constitution by defining marriage.
Deutsch said: "We do not want marriage to be redefined. We believe it should be the traditional one man, one woman."
She said efforts to redefine "marriage" are taking place in the Illinois General Assembly, and they should be stopped. She cited two pieces of legislation, House Bill 1826 and Senate Bill 2436, that would permit what she calls "same-gender marriage."
But the key lawmakers behind those bills say their proposals to legalize civil unions in Illinois would have no impact on traditional marriage.
"I’m not sure why it’s such a controversial issue. We don’t affect marriage at all," said Rep. Greg Harris, the Chicago Democrat sponsoring HB1826. "Opponents are throwing up a smokescreen that somehow this is going to affect (traditional) marriages in Illinois."
Sen. David Koehler, the Peoria Democrat who is sponsoring SB2436, said the proposal to legalize civil unions — between either same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples — is "an emotional issue."
Koehler never called his bill for a Senate committee vote this year. He said he is waiting to see what happens with Harris’ bill, which has won House committee approval and awaits a vote in the full House.
Harris said he is still trying to round up enough "yes" votes — 60 — to assure his bill can pass in House and advance to the Senate.
"We’re fairly close," he said Monday. "I don’t want to give out numbers because that changes from day to day."
Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.