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Posts for December, 2014

Rest in Peace, Judy Baar Topinka

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2014

Topinka

The state of Illinois and the gay community has lost a treasure. (Chicago Tribune)

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, long one of the state’s most colorful and outspoken elected officials, died early Wednesday of complications from a stroke she suffered Tuesday, her chief of staff said. Ms. Topinka was 70.

Illinois politics has always been a carnival, providing colorful characters and unexpected storylines. Tales of shady dealings abound. Some still insist that voter fraud by Mayor Daley won the 1960 election for Kennedy and no one seems at all surprised that four of the last seven governors went to jail for fraud or racketeering or blatantly trying to sell government positions to the highest bidder.

The Illinois Republican Party has also been a whirl of grand-scale spectacle where in the past few decades much of the brouhaha has been over social issues, particularly gay rights.

The stomping grounds of such characters as Peter LaBarbera, the Prairie State GOP has it’s share of anti-gay activists. But it also is home to Senator Kirk, a marriage supporter, and former state party chairman Pat Brady who in 2013 was an active campaigner for the marriage equality bill.

Republicans in the Land of Lincoln are not, on the whole, pro-gay. But there is a far greater tolerance for pro-gay politicians there than in many GOP circles. And no small part of that is due to Judy Baar Topinka, a GOP politician who never balked at letting her support of the community be known.

In many respects, Ms. Topinka could be considered the matriarch of the moderate wing of the state Republican Party. A fiscal conservative, she was an early advocate of abortion and gay rights, positions which often put her at odds with members of the socially conservative wing of the GOP.

“I don’t know that I was ever the choice of the party regulars,” Topinka said during her 2006 run for governor. “One fellow told me, ‘You are never going to get anywhere. You don’t run with the big dogs.’ OK, well, you know, now, the big dogs are either retired, dead or in prison. So here I am.”

Topinka started her career as a news reporter and in 1980 she ran for state representative. After two terms, she was elected to the state senate and then to the position of State Treasurer, where she served for 18 years. From 2002 to 2005, she served as the Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party and in 2006 Topinka was the GOP nominee for Governor, losing to Rod Blagojevich.

In 2010 she was elected State Comptroller, a position to which she was reelected last month.

topinka gay prideTopinka was a unique character. In a heavily partisan state, she was a maverick who spoke her mind, didn’t mince words, and would accept the ideas of anyone who would help her achieve her goals. In a world of polished politicians, she shopped at resale stores and garage sales and played polka on the accordion.

And she earned the respect of those of all political persuasion who worked with her.

And for much of her political career, she was a visible advocate for the community. A regular in the pride parades and seen campaigning in gay bars, Topinka used her position to help the community achieve funding for the construction of a community center. She was a supporter of the marriage bill and was on the dais when Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill.

Thank you, Judy, and rest in peace.

Illinois GOP ousts anti-gay committee members

Timothy Kincaid

April 21st, 2014

Pat Brady, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, started 2013 off with a bang by announcing that he was lobbying state legislators to support marriage equality. While this received immediate reaction, the situation did not play out as might have been expected.

There was movement for Brady’s removal and some members of the state central committee called for a vote on his ouster. But this effort did not receive support from party leadership and both the GOP House Leader and US Senator Mark Kirk (who has endorsed equality, himself) supported Brady.

Eventually, Brady resigned from the position. But not before it became clear that he did so on his own volition and that the ouster effort did not have the necessary votes to remove him. Only seven of the 18 committee members signed onto a letter demanding his removal.

In November the state legislature passed a marriage equality bill, by a narrow margin, with the necessary support of three GOP representatives. Anti-gay activists vowed that they’d pay for their “betrayal” at the polls. Last month Republican voters rejected primary challenges to all three.

And now it appears that the social agenda activism of the anti-gay committee members has placed them on the outs in Illinois GOP politics. (Daily Journal)

A crop of Republican officials who wanted to oust former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady for his statements supporting same-sex marriage have been replaced in their party positions.

Illinois Republicans across the state held elections for all 18 state central committee member posts this week, replacing six of the seven officials who signed on to a letter last year to hold a vote on removing Brady as chairman. The seventh person to sign the letter, Mark Shaw of the 10th Congressional District, was re-elected to a four-year term.

I think it is now clear that irrespective of what they may individually believe about marriage, Illinois Republican voters have no stomach for continuing a culture war against the rights of their gay neighbors.

It’s a good day not to be anti-gay

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2014

Remember when marriage equality passed in Illinois with the (necessary) support of a handful of Republicans. And remember how the anti-gays pledged to destroy the GOP traitors and replace them with true loyal purveyors of discrimination and hate.

Well, there’s this (WaPo)

None of the Republicans who voted for gay marriage lost.

When the Illinois state House passed a bill to legalize gay marriage last fall, just three out of 47 Republicans voted for it. On Tuesday, none of them lost. State Rep. Tom Cross (R) cruised to a 14-point victory in the primary for state treasurer while state Rep. Ed Sullivan (R) easily won renomination in his district. The third, state Rep. Ron Sandack (R), narrowly edged out his opponent by fewer than 200 votes, according to an unofficial tally. The close margin could mean the race goes to a recount. Sandack and Sullivan both faced pressure from third-party groups looking to oust them over their gay marriage votes. In Sandack’s case, the issue became a central focus. Had the three Republicans lost, it would have probably given pause to Republicans considering backing gay marriage in other states where the matter comes up in the future. But given two decisive wins and a third tentative victory, gay rights advocates have a lot to be happy about a day after the election.

Illinois AG Says Counties Can Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

Jim Burroway

March 5th, 2014

Following the recent ruling by a Federal Judge allowing same-sex marriages to begin in Cook County without waiting for Illinois’s marriage equality law to go into effect in June, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has issued a letter encouraging County Clerks statewide to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples:

Madigan spelled out her position in a letter to the Macon County clerk’s office, which sought legal guidance following a Feb. 21 ruling from U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. The ruling allows Cook County same-sex couples to get married now, before a state law on the matter that takes effect June 1.

In the letter, Madigan said other counties were not bound by last month’s ruling, but that her office expects it “to be persuasive” to other courts addressing the matter. If a couple sues an Illinois county after being denied a marriage license before the law otherwise takes effect, she said, her office would intervene on the side of the plaintiffs and argue that the denial is unconstitutional.

Same Sex Marriages To Begin in Chicago Tomorrow

Jim Burroway

February 21st, 2014

A Federal judge in Chicago rulled today that same-sex couples don’t have to wait until Illinois’s marriage equality law goes into effect in June to get married:

There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry,” U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said in her ruling.

…Cook County Clerk David Orr said his office will issue licenses immediately at the downtown office, and couples can get married as soon as Saturday.

Because the Cook County Clerk’s office was the named defendant in the class action lawsuit, the decision applies only to Cook County.

Update: The Cook County Clerk’s office has announced that they will stay open late for an extra two hours until 7:00 p.m. tonight. The announcement also quotes County Clerk David Orr: “I’m thrilled same-sex couples who want to get married won’t have to wait any longer. We are very excited to celebrate this historic milestone with every loving couple from today onward.”

Federal Court orders Illinois To Issue Early Marriage License for Lesbian Couple

Jim Burroway

November 26th, 2013

Vernita Gray, 64, left, and Pat Ewert, 65, right at their 2011 civil union ceremony.

A Federal District Court took the unusual step in ordering the state of Illinois to issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill, so the couple can marry without waiting until marriage equality becomes legal there in June of next year. U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin signed a temporary restraining order yesterday ordering Cook County Clerk David Orr to gant a marriage license to Vernita Gray, 64, and Patricia Ewert, 65:

Even though the Cook County couple entered into a civil union in 2011, Gray and Ewert wish to marry in Illinois before Gray passes away. Erik Roldon, a spokesperson for Lambda Legal, said now that the couple has the temporary restraining order, they could marry as soon as Wednesday.

In a statement, Gray expressed tremendous joy that she’d finally be able to marry her long-time partner in their home state.

“I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today — I am so happy to get this news,” Gray said. “I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass.”

Doctors say Gray may have only weeks to live. This is believed to be the first time that a federal judge has ordered a state to provide a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Last July, a federal judge in Cincinnati ordered the state of Ohio to recognize the marriage of a gay couple who married in Maryland, one of whom was terminally ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He passed away
in October.

And look who showed up

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2013

While most protest to the marriage bill was celebrating an exorcism, the Chicago Police cordoned off a space in front of the UIC Forum – where the signing ceremony was being held – for protest, should anyone wish to do so. And look who showed up, our old buddy Peter LaBarbera, the head of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality.

Poor, poor Peter. He looks a bit lonely.

(photo shamelessly stolen from Joe.My.God)

Stolam mea est pulchellus

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2013


While the marriage bill was being signed, those who oppose equality as being contrary to the procreative purpose of marriage met in Springfield at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to join celibate Bishop Thomas Paprocki for a rather unusual response: an exorcism.

Speaking in a language that has for 1,000 years been spoken only by those who vow not to marry, Paprocki commanded that “every unclean sprit, every power of darkness, every incursion of the infernal enemy, every diabolical legion, cohort and faction” be gone.

But evidence suggests that the command may not have been effective as he himself did not immediately disappear in a puff of purple smoke

Marriage is law in Illinois

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2013

Yesterday Illinois Governor Pat Quinn took pens in hand and signed the state’s marriage equality bill into law. (Trib)

Playing master of ceremonies during an hourlong event, the re-election-seeking Democratic governor slowly signed the bill with 100 pens that quickly became souvenirs. He did so at a desk shipped from Springfield that the administration said President Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address in 1861 — a speech on the cusp of the Civil War that called on Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.”

But it was another Lincoln speech that Quinn referenced as he spoke to about 2,300 supporters gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“In the very beginning of the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln of Illinois said that our nation was conceived in liberty. And he said it’s dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and that’s really what we’re celebrating today,” he said. “It’s a triumph of democracy.”

The ceremony also featured Greg Harris, primary sponsor of the bill, and others including Judy Baar Topinka, the only state-wide elected Republican in Illinois.

Quinn’s signature brings the total number of states with legalized same-sex marriage to 16 (plus the District of Columbia) and the total number of people living in an equality state to 115 million, or 38% of the US population.

In addition, three states (Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado) offer Domestic Partnerships with all of the state rights and obligations, but none of the Federal.

The law is slated to go into effect on June 1, 2014. However, Sen. Don Harmon (D – Oak Park) is considering a bill which would make the law effective immediately.

Illinois Senate clears procedural hurdle for marriage

Timothy Kincaid

November 6th, 2013

Although the Illinois Senate had previously passed marriage equality, amendments in the House required a second vote. (NYT)

The measure passed the Illinois Senate in February, but for procedural reasons it had to be voted on there again. On Tuesday, the Senate quickly approved changes the House made to the bill, sending it to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has said he will sign it. Illinois couples could begin marrying on June 1.

Pres. Obama Reacts

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2013

Illinois Governor Reacts

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2013

Old Farts React

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2013

Schadenfreude Alert

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2013

From an Illinois resident:

Illinois House Passes Marriage Equality Bill (Updated)

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2013

The Illinois House of Representatives has just approved a marriage equality bill in a 61-54 vote. The bill is slightly different from the one passed by the state Senate last February. Earlier today the bill was amended to change its effective date to June 1, 2014, rather than thirty days after signing by the governor. This allowed the required threshhold for passage to drop from 71 votes to 60. The bill will now go back to the Senate for its quick approval — likely before this evening is over — before heading to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he is eager to sign it into law.

Eleven Democrats voted against the measure. They were Reps. Daniel V Beiser, John E. Bradley, Kartherine Cloonen, Jerry F. Costello, II, Monique Davis, Mary Flowers, Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr., Charles Jefferson, Frank Mautino, Brandon Phelps, and Sue Scherer. Two others voted “Present” — Reps. Rita Mayfield and Derrick Smith — but because of the sixty-vote threshhold needed for passage during the veto session, their votes were effectively “no” votes.

Three Republicans voted in support of marriage equality. They were Reps. Tom Cross, Ron Sandack, and Ed Sullivan, Jr.

Illinois will become the fifteenth state, plus the District of Columbia, to provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Update (5:05 p.m. CST): Barely an hour has passed, and the Senate has given its concurrence to the House bill in a 32-21 vote. It now goes to the governor.

Update (5:30 p.m. CST): The Chicago Sun-Times says, “Administration sources predicted the governor, once the bill arrives on his desk, would hold a bill-signing ceremony within the next week or two.”

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