by Dan Rafter for HRC

Gingrich – who oversaw the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act – urges GOP to stop fighting against marriage equality

In an interview with the Huffington Post, former Republican presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich made remarks indicating he and other GOP leaders should embrace civil marriage equality – the latest sign of powerful momentum for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality this year. Gingrich served as Speaker of the House in 1996, when the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed into law.
 
“Newt Gingrich reflects the experience that has changed the minds of so many Americans in understanding that LGBT people are a part of every family and community – including his own,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “His evolution resonates with people on a very personal level and is a quintessential example of why momentum is on the side of equality.”

Newt Gingrich is just the latest of those who once opposed marriage equality to evolve to a position of supporting the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry. David Blankenhorn, the star witness against marriage equality in the Proposition 8 case, has had a similar change of heart. As another sign of progress, the Mormon Church, which was the largest funder of Prop 8, sat out this election cycle and remained silent in the four victorious marriage fights.

In addition to last month’s marriage victories at the polls, Americans are continuing to demonstrate their support for equality in overwhelming numbers. In fact, support for marriage has increased 21 percent in just eight years – a remarkable shift in public opinion over a short period of time. As more LGBT people share their personal stories, Americans – including an increasing number of Republicans like Gingrich – are joining the ranks of equality supporters. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, former First Lady Laura Bush, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Ted Olson, former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman, and Paul Singer are among those in the GOP who support marriage equality.

“Gingrich’s recognition that Americans now overwhelmingly support marriage equality draws a sharp contrast with the few extremists continuing to fight against equality,” added Griffin. “Gingrich’s comments give other Republican leaders the room to do the right thing and embrace marriage equality – which is reflective of the fundamental conservative principles of freedom and individual liberty. The six million LGBT people who voted this election cycle, along with the decisive victories we secured across the board, make clear the direction in which our country is heading.”
 
 
Pending legislation protects religious freedom, gives same-­‐sex couples freedom to marry 

CHICAGO, Dec. 20, 2012 – In the wake of the announcement by key legislators that they will seek passage of an Illinois marriage equality bill on January 2013, a broad range of organizations have joined to form a new coalition, called Illinois Unites for Marriage. The coalition will be wholly focused on securing legislation giving same-­‐sex couples the freedom to marry in early 2013. 
Illinois Unites brings together a diverse group of individuals and organizations from across Illinois, including business groups, labor, faith organizations, Republicans, Democrats and grassroots supporters. The coalition is being organized by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois.

"We are uniting to urge members of the Illinois General Assembly to let all Illinoisans express their love and life-­‐long commitment through civil marriage," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state's oldest and largest LGBT advocacy organization.

“The momentum is undeniable – allowing same-­‐sex couples to marry is the right thing for Illinois,” said Jim Bennett, Regional Director of Lambda Legal. “It’s best for our state that our government treat all families with equity and respect. Nine other states now have full marriage equality. It’s time for Illinois to act.”

The legislation, currently called HB 5170, would give gay and lesbian couples in Illinois the freedom to marry and thereby enter a life-­‐long commitment of responsibility and respect. Recent polling indicates that a majority in Illinois supports giving same-­‐sex couples the freedom to marry. Meanwhile, national polls as well as the November elections confirm that the American people have turned a corner on the issue.

“Same-­‐sex couples will strengthen the institution of marriage,” said John Knight, ACLU’s LGBT Project Director. “They want to marry because of their love and commitment and because marriage provides them and their families with the security, support and legal protections that civil unions can never provide.”

The three founding organizations of Illinois Unites for Marriage believe that the government should have a statewide policy treating all Illinoisans with dignity and respect. The coalition is working closely with the bill’s lead sponsors, Representative Greg Harris (D-­‐Chicago) and Senator Heather Steans (D-­‐Chicago), who announced last week they would seek a January vote on the measure.

The Illinois marriage bill respects religious freedom. Every church and religious group will make its own decisions about whether to allow same-­‐sex couples to marry in their faith. Faiths that do not want to embrace same-­‐sex marriage will not have to.

The three founding organizations of Illinois Unites for Marriage believe that all Illinoisans deserve a statewide policy of fairness, dignity and equal treatment. Nine states plus the District of Columbia have already given same-­‐sex couples the freedom to marry: Iowa, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maryland.

Fro more information about the bill,  on how citizens can make their voices heard, and how organizations can express their support visit www.illinoisunites.org.