Several Latino leaders in Illinois have reportedly issued an open letter to lawmakers advocating the state's legalization of gay marriage, as a House committee is expected to consider the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act this Tuesday.
The letter, which was reportedly signed by 23 Latino leaders, including Miguel Del Valle, a former City Clerk of Chicago; Jesse H. Ruiz, Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education; and Sylvia Puente, Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum, urges lawmakers to approve the gay marriage bill, claiming "no member of anyone's family, whether they're gay or straight, should face discrimination when they hope to marry the person they love."
"As Latinos, we know our families are stronger when we stay together. We never turn our backs on family," the letter continues. "That includes supporting the freedom to marry for our gay and lesbian sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles," the letter adds.
The open letter comes shortly after the state's Democratic-controlled Senate approved the gay marriage bill on Valentine's Day by a slim 34-21 vote.
The issue of gay marriage has proven tense in the state of Illinois, with the most recent controversy involving Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. Brady became embroiled in controversy earlier this month when he urged lawmakers to approve the gay marriage bill without consulting fellow party officers or executive committee members.
Many Republicans in the state denounced Brady's advocacy, partly because he went against protocol within his party, and partly because many argue that his opinions do not coincide with the Republican platform.
"Any Republican in Illinois who betrays the cause of marriage will be casting a career-ending vote and will be held accountable to their constituents," Brian Brown, National Organization for Marriage president, threatened in a statement.
Should the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act pass the Illinois General Assembly and be signed by Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois will become the tenth state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage.
Although the gay marriage bill, labeled Senate Bill 10, has received support among many influential leaders, including an editorial on behalf of four regional newspapers in the state, others contend that the bill comes at a premature time.
"We've had civil unions, and it hasn't even been two years," Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) told The Quad-City Times recently.
"The purpose of the civil union was to give people in this situation the rights they felt they deserved. I think that needs to have time to go through the system before we go further," she added.
Additionally, Rep. Adam Brown (R-Champaign) told The Quad-City Times that he too is opposed to same-sex marriage, as is the majority of his constituency. "I believe marriage is a holy union between one man and one woman, and I'll continue to stand behind that position," Brown told the paper.
"I would say 99 percent of my constituency, those who have contacted me, is against gay marriage. My job is to represent my constituents and uphold what they believe," he added.