Obama, Business Leaders Come Out for Gay Marriage in Illinois

Illinois, the state where Barack Obama first cut his political teeth will soon vote whether to legalize same-sex marriage and the president is putting his political force behind the measure in hopes of turning the Land of Lincoln into the 10th state to legalize gay marriage.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye confirmed on Sunday that Obama would weigh in on the issue given he once served in the Illinois State Senate.

The endorsement is somewhat rare given that sitting presidents rarely comment on state issues. However, Obama did endorse gay marriage in Minnesota and Washington during the fall elections. Both passed on the same day Obama was re-elected to a second term.

"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times, which first reported the president's comments.

"As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the president still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."

The measure sponsored by State Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris, appears to be on a fast track, even though a new legislature that will have even more Democrats will be sworn in on Jan. 10.

If the measure were to become legal in Illinois, it would be the first Midwest state to legalize homosexual marriage by a vote of its legislature. Iowa's Supreme Court ruled it legal in 2009.

Civil unions, which grants some rights to same-sex partners were made legal in Illinois in June 2011, but that has not satisfied many homosexual activists.

And Obama isn't the only heavyweight putting his muscle behind the bill.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close ally of the president, along with his top corporate adviser, Michael Sacks, have asked a group of CEOs and top executives to sign a letter of endorsement in hopes of encouraging some lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill.

"I've called anywhere from nine to a dozen [CEOs]," Emanuel said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "And everybody is a personal 'yes.' Some are a 'yes,' and don't worry about it. Others are a 'yes,' but they have to go check (the letter), and run it up and down their boards because they work for publicly traded companies. … They have some internal work to do to get to a 'yes.'"

Among the business executives expected to sign the letter are Morningstar Founder Joe Mansueto, Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner and Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts.

Although the letter has not yet been released, the Tribune obtained a draft of the document.

"Since human capital drives innovation and growth, a state must foster an environment where people want to live," the letter reads. "To be competitive, a state must create an equitable, fair and respectful environment for all its citizens."

Last week a group of around 250 mostly liberal-leaning clergy and faith leaders signed a letter of endorsement for the bill.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois, the group that represents the state's Catholic bishops, has maintained that marriage should be between and man and a woman.

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