Where We Are Now

By Kelly Cassidy
State Representative – 14th District

The November elections were great for the LGBT community.  The wins locally and nationally said, without a doubt, that there’s no benefit in using “gay issues” as red meat in elections.  Four statewide referendums went our way, with voters in 3 states affirming marriage equality and the 4th state successfully defeating an anti-marriage referendum.  The President of the United States stated unequivocally that he supports full equality for LGBT people and was reelected in spite of efforts to use that issue as a wedge.

Closer to home, an openly gay democrat in Lake County defeated a long time Republican incumbent.  He was inspired to run because of his opponent’s vote on civil unions in 2010.  His sexual orientation was never an issue in the race, but this is one instance we can point to where voting against our community cost someone their seat.  Sam Yingling will become the 4th openly gay member of the General Assembly when he is sworn in on January 9th.

Sam Yingling

Between now and then, advocates and members of the General Assembly are working furiously to secure the votes for full equal marriage before the end of this legislative session.  Along with the other openly gay members of the House, we have a great coalition of colleagues pushing this bill in the hopes that we can keep the momentum on our side.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn have also spoken out recently about their desire to see this bill passed soon.

This is not a slam-dunk, by any measure.  There are several controversial issues before the General Assembly in these final days of session and we cannot take a single vote for granted.  The perception of our community is that we are largely concentrated in a few geographic areas represented by people already supporting the bill.  We are offering our colleagues evidence of growing support for equality in their districts via polls and election data.  But what they really need is direct contact from the people they represent.  Our gains over the last several years are directly the result of people’s growing comfort with us as neighbors, coworkers, friends and family.  Our opponents use fear and ignorance to make their case.  We use truth and openness, dispel misconceptions and fears and we will win as long as we continue to do that.

So, as we head into the holiday lull, please do not let up the pressure.  We will only have a few session days to get votes lined up.  We need our colleagues outside the city, in the suburbs and western and southern Illinois to hear from their constituents that they want them to vote on the right side of history.  Ignore the old rule about not talking about politics at family dinners or cocktail parties.  Ask everyone you know to call, write or visit their State Representative and Senator before the new year.  When our colleagues face a neighbor asking why one granddaughter can marry and the other cannot, it’s tough to ignore.

I truly believe that we will have equal marriage in Illinois, it is only a question of when.  With enough pushing from within our community and allies across the spectrum, it can be sooner rather than later.

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Kelly Cassidy
As the State Representative of the 14th District, Kelly Cassidy has committed her career to public service by advocating for the rights of women and the LGBT community and fighting for a more effective and fairer criminal justice system.

As an openly gay legislator and devoted mother to three sons, Cassidy’s life experiences have provided her with a unique perspective and the enthusiasm to make a positive impact on the local community.  Through her previous work with local, state, and federal officials, Cassidy has a firm understanding of the major issues facing Illinois and hopes to use her experience to help state government run more efficiently.

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