Go Progress, GO!

Illinois has long been the epicenter of political discourse in the country. Our state is one of the more important and historic bellwethers of popular opinion and otherwise. Our unique geography has enabled us to truly represent the rest of America. Urban liberalism in the north, gubernatorial centrism in the middle and rural conservatism in the south (including several dissident pockets in either of those three main regions of our state) is a reflection of the geography of thought that exists in America. However marred our political system may be from almost two centuries of sporadic corruption, one cannot deny the importance of our state in respect to the rest of the Union.

Now that the marriage equality debate has formally come to our state, many may gauge that it doesn’t mean much for the rest of the union as nine states have already legalized same-sex marriage including New York, the largest state in the union to have done so. That in itself is an incredible feat; however, New York state might as well be regarded with the same extremity as Siberia when it comes to much of the Union. Illinois is a mesh of all types of American values and indeed is a complete state. A presence in the Mid-Atlantic, the bread basket and the south, it truly can come to define the racial, religious, socioeconomic and political issues and values that exist in the rest of the country.

The fact that it’s taken this long for Illinois to begin this process of marriage equality is rather an interesting one because of the fact that our state was the first in the Union to decriminalize what it called “consensual sodomy” at the time. However, perhaps more unsurprisingly is that public displays of affection remained illegal between persons of the same sex until 1984. That double standard is one that prevails to this day. A sight unseen attitude gives way to tolerance and rejects acceptance. To truly become successful, one must fully accept since toleration tends to be reserved for situations that are uncomfortable and even damaging. If the culture can be pushed toward greater acceptance of economic validity between persons of the same sex who are engaged in a consensual long term commitment as opposed to just putting up with it, the progress shall be complete. But progress is like the El during construction because its advancement happens on its own terms. It sometimes runs express or stalls for indeterminate periods of time. Go progress, go.

What this shall accomplish for the rest of the country is the undeniable injection into the mainstream of this political issue. For years it has been seen as a special-interest issue that affected only a minority of people. Illinois has let it be made clear to the rest of the nation that these aren’t a special-interest group but that these are Americans whose indelible rights are being taken hostage. As a nation in economic crisis, social issues tend to take a backseat. However, these societal concerns directly affect many aspects for the country, including the economy. Our struggling state would benefit, according to the Williams Institute, between $39 million and $79 million of revenue that would reignite our economic power within the Union.

To recap: In May, Governor Pat Quinn formally announced his support for marriage equality in an email given to the Windy City Times by spokesperson Brooke Anderson. In addition to that, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s offices have filed papers saying that they would no longer defend the ban. The Illinois gay marriage law had been introduced in February by our state’s three openly gay representatives. Nine couples have filed suits against Cook County clerk David Orr who is in agreement with the plaintiffs, contesting the constitutionality of the ban. And the most recent milestone sees Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez position on the matter in favor of marriage equality.

All of these milestones in under four months have shown that progress can prevail in Illinois no matter how stunted it may feel at times.