The No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate is calling on legislators in his state to pass legislation that would make Illinois the 10th state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.
In a letter dated Jan. 3 to state lawmakers, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) talks about his own evolution on the issue of marriage rights for gay couples, saying he’s concluded that “ending this discrimination” against them is “consistent with the evolution of civil rights in our democracy.”
“Every generation is given a chance to put an end to some form of discrimination in America,” Durbin writes. “As you consider this historic vote, I hope you will reflect on those you will meet after it is cast. An affirmative vote will give you a chance to look into the eyes of those who have faced discrimination throughout their lives and tell them that you voted to affirm their rights under the law.”
Durbin has previously expressed support for marriage equality and among the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted to report out to the Senate legislation that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act last year. As a U.S. House member in 1996, Durbin voted in favor of DOMA.
Supporters of same-sex marriage in Illinois were pushing to pass same-sex marriage legislation by the time the General Assembly adjourns on Jan. 8. According to the Windy City Times, the legislation won’t come to a vote this week and “repeated foibles” bring into question whether the bill will pass before the next session begins.
Durbin’s letter follows a statement issued by a White House spokesperson last week indicating President Obama also supports the Illinois marriage equality legislation and would vote in favor of it if he were a legislator in the state, which he was from 1997 to 2004.
The office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the junior senator from Illinois, didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the marriage equality legislation. Kirk had only Thursday returned to the Senate after recovering from a stroke.
Had Kirk come out in support of the legislation, he would be the first Republican member of the U.S. Senate to endorse marriage equality. Illinois State GOP Chair Pat Brady has called on Republicans in the state to support the bill, but said he was doing so in a personal capacity.