A Republican Party chairman has urged lawmakers to get behind a proposal to legalise marriage equality in Illinois.

Illinois Party Chairman, Pat Brady, called on state lawmakers to support a proposed measure to legalise equal marriage, saying he thought it was time for people to support marriage equality, an issue which could be debated by state lawmakers this week, reports the Daily Herald. 

He did go on to say that he was making the calls as a US citizen, and not as part of his official role within the Illinois Republican Party. He said:

“I think it’s time for people to support this.”

Meanwhile in Chicago, Catholic Cardinal Francis George issued a letter urging lawmakers to reject calls to make Illinois the next US state to legalise equal marriage. The letter reads:

“Marriage comes to us from nature. The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female. Their sexual union is called marital,”

The letter was reportedly sent to all Illinois lawmakers, from 1,700 state religious leaders, aimed to counter the argument that the proposed move towards equality would not interfere with religious freedom. It continues:

“It not only creates a place of love for two adults but also a home for loving and raising their children. It provides the biological basis for personal identity.

“The real peril: If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations, regardless of deeply held beliefs, will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations,”

The letter was from Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon, Anglican and Islamic leaders, went on to say that marriage equality could be “dangerous”, as it could “compel” religious organisations to treat marriages of same-sex couples the same as those of straight couples.

Cardinal George, and six other bishops also wrote a letter to followers on Tuesday, which called marriage equality “an affront to reason and the common good of society.” The letter reads:

“Does this mean that the Church is anti-gay? No, for the Church welcomes everyone, respects each one personally and gives to each the spiritual means necessary to convert to God’s ways and maintain friendship with Christ.

“[No] matter how strong a friendship or deep a love between persons of the same sex might be, it is physically impossible for two men, or two women, to consummate a marital union.”

Lawmakers in Springfield, Illinois could begin debating marriage equality as early as this week. Critics have speculated that a vote on the issue could be close, as civil partnerships passed in December 2010 by a narrow margin.

On 9 January, a new class of lawmakers will be sworn in in the state’s capital, however the current lame-duck members are seen by some as crucial for such a measure to pass.

Last week, President Obama encouraged politicians in Illinois, his home state to change the law as part of a move by State Representative Greg Harris and Senator Heather Steans, both Democrats, from Mr Obama’s home city of Chicago.