Upon announcing that the equal marriage bill for the US state of Illinois would not be called for vote on Friday, the bill’s sponsor Representative Greg Harris broke down in tears during his impassioned speech.
Representative Harris, the equal marriage bill’s chief sponsor, had promised he would call the bill for a vote before the end of session today, but also previously said he would only call it if he was sure it had enough support to pass.
Senate Bill 010 passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate on Valentine’s Day this year.
Upon announcing that the vote would be postponed, most likely until autumn this year, Representative Harris said: “On Valentines day, the Illinois state Senate followed down the path to make the state of Illinois, the next state in our Union to recognise marriage equality.
“Our president Barack Obama, our past President Bill Clinton, our Govenror, the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel, both of our United States senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin have supported this. The Speaker of the House, the Attorney General, the state Comptroller, and many members of this House have stood for fairness and equality”
“The editorial boards of our major newspapers, and thousands of proud Illinois families have risen to support marriage equality as well…”
At which point, Representative Harris struggled to stave off tears, as members of the public began to call out, as he is comforted by those around him.
He continued: “When I took the oath of office along with all of you who sit in this chamber, we swore to uphold to defend and protect our constitution, and the democratic process by which our nation functions.
“Part of that process is the need to have a majority vote to change the law, and when you change the course of history, I believe that should be a substantial majority.”
He went on to accept full responsibility for the delay to the vote, and said that the delay had been requested by his colleagues, who wanted more time to speak to constituents.
“As chief sponsor of this leglsiation, decisions surrounding this legislation are mine and mine alone. Several of my collegause have inducated they would not be willing to cast a vote on this bill today. And I have never been sadder to accept such a request, but I have to keep my eye,a s we all must, on the ultimate prize.
“They have asked for time to go back to their districts, talk to their constituents, and reach out to their minds and hears, and have told me they will return in November, with their word that they are prepared to support this legislation. I take my colleagues at their word that they shall.
“We will be back, and we will be voting on this bill in this legislature, in this room. Until that day, I apologise to the families who were hoping to wake up tomorrow as full and equal citizens of this state.”
To finish, Representative Harris quoted Abraham Lincoln, and was greeted with a standing ovation from the House.
He said: “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembed in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The firey trial through which we pass will light us down in honour, or dishonour, to the latest generation.”
Democratic Governor Pat Quinn had already indicated that he would have signed the bill, had it passed, and is still expected to do so if a vote takes place in the new legislative session, in autumn.