Rep. Jay Hoffman on gay marriage vote: I haven't decided

News-DemocratOctober 22, 2013 

State Rep. Jay Hoffman.

DERIK HOLTMANN — dholtmann@bnd.com

Local proponents of gay marriage have mixed feelings on whether a state lawmaker should call for a vote on the issue, when there's uncertainty about whether it has enough votes for passage.

Statewide, some supporters say it makes no sense to call for a vote on something that can't yet pass, while others say it's time for lawmakers to show where they stand.

Vengerflutta Smith, president of Metro East Pride, favors waiting.

"I think we need to make sure we have the votes before we ask for a vote," Smith said. "But at the same time, we need to make sure we get the message out there to all of our representatives, that we're counting on you to represent us equally, just as they represent all of their other constituent groups. We can't say we're just going to be equal for women, or equal for African-Americans, but not the LGBT community."

Allen Irby, the vice president of Metro East Pride, favors a vote now.

"We should push the vote, regardless. If we lose, we're not going away," Irby said. "We've failed before, and we've bounced back."

It's unclear if there will be a vote during the legislature's fall veto session, which is this week and the first week of November. But both sides of the issue are mobilizing.

Supporters are holding a rally today in Springfield. Opponents are having one Wednesday.

In the spring, the Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill, but the House didn't vote on it. On the last day of the spring session, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, opted not to call the bill for a vote, for strategic reasons. He said that, by his count, vote did not yet have enough support for passage in the House.

Harris, a Chicago Democrat, has not yet said whether he'll seek a vote during the veto session.

"Over the summer, there's been an unprecedented outpouring across the state of people in support of this issue," Harris told the Springfield State Journal-Register. "I am hoping my colleagues return ready to vote and make it the law in the state of Illinois."

Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, said people have strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

"But I do believe that it could be categorized, to a large extent, as generational," Hoffman said. "People who are my daughter's age believe much differently than older individuals. That's just kind of the sense I've gotten from the calls I receive."

Hoffman voted in favor of civil unions but has previously said he's opposed to gay marriage. In an interview this week, however, he left open the possibility of voting in favor of it.

"I haven't decided. I'm still reviewing some of the information that's been provided by both sides. Until we see a final draft of a bill, I think it's premature," Hoffman said.

"Some individuals are demanding changes to make sure it won't impede on the autonomy of churches, which I think is vitally important. I do believe there should be assurances that this would not impede upon the province of religious freedom."

Rep. Dwight Kay, a Glen Carbon Republican, said Democrats, who have a majority in the House, might be feeling more pressure from constituents.

"It appears that those on the opposite side of the House as me, who were not in favor of gay marriage, are now being threatened with primaries. The heat is being turned up on the opposite side of the aisle," Kay said.

Kay, who is opposed to gay marriage, said if Harris calls the bill and it fails, "it would probably be a very bad indicator for those who have been proposing it as something we need to do."

Metro-east residents who attended the pro-gay marriage rally Tuesday included Colin Murphy of O'Fallon. Murphy said he expects a vote during the fall session.

"I think given the Supreme Court decision this summer, that's given a lot of political cover for some politicians who may have been on the fence," Murphy said. "I think the tide of history will be on our side."

Opponents include an assortment of religious groups, such as African American Clergy Coalition, Catholic Conference of Illinois and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The Rev. Kirk Clayton, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Mascoutah, which is part of the Missouri Synod, said marriage is supposed to be between a man and woman.

"Since marriage pre-dates any government, no government should presume to change God's definition," Clayton said. "What God therefore has defined, let not man re-define. I am pleased to stand with my friends of various faith traditions to support God's blessed plan for marriage."

In its current form, the bill would take effect immediately, so it would require 71 votes to pass the House during the veto session. The bill could be revised to delay the effective date, which would lower the required vote total to 60. But if the bill is revised, the Senate would have to pass it again.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would sign a bill allowing gay marriage.

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