While Illinois lawmakers meet for a week-long lame-duck session, the leaders of over 1,700 faith communities throughout the state are sending them a message.
Faith leaders, including the Most Reverend David J. Malloy, Bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford, signed a letter that was sent to lawmakers asking them to oppose any efforts to redefine marriage in the state of Illinois. The letter defines marriage as "an institution fundamental to the well-being of society because a stable, loving marriage is the ideal environment for raising children." It goes on to say marriage "is the natural order embracing the complementary physical, emotional and spiritual design of men and women."
The letter was signed by leaders representing a variety of faiths, including the Anglican Church in North America, the Roman Catholic Church, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and more.
Members of the Illinois Senate returned to Springfield on January 2. A new Legislature will be sworn in on January 9, so many lawmakers that are not returning could feel more open to voting on contentious issues during the lame duck session. Lawmakers that support gay marriage feel they have enough votes to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage in Illinois during that time.
However, faith leaders are hoping no such change will come about. They argue in the letter that changing the state's definition of marriage from "between a man and a woman" to "between two persons" violates their First Amendment rights, even if they are not forced to preside over same-sex unions.
The letter argues, "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," which faith leaders say violates religious freedom outlined in the First Amendment.
If legislation is passed, Illinois would be the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
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