March on, Springfield, march on
By Tom Cicero
Photo Credits to: Madelyn Olsen
Writing Center Director Carrie Brecke led a group of Roosevelt University students to unite with a few thousand supporters for the March on Springfield for Marriage Equality last Tuesday to push for the passing of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Brecke and the students arrived in Springfield courtesy of a charter bus provided out-of-pocket by University President Charles Middleton.
Despite an intense progression of rain throughout the day, the students and other supporters, who gathered from around Illinois, continued to rally and chant for their rights to equal marriage.
Among those students was Alyssa Carabez, a Roosevelt English major, who is an avid supporter of marriage equality.
“I’m a very strong feminist, so humans rights for me is a big part of that,” Carabez said. “I hope that the gay rights movement in general doesn’t die out after marriage is done, because that is a very small component of the whole picture. There is so much more going on.”
Carabez also said that she hopes this is only the first step towards a brighter future for marriage equality.
The bill in question states that “all laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children,” and that they will have “the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law,” according to the official Illinois General Assembly website.
The bill would allow same-sex couples to be married in the state of Illinois, making Illinois the 15th state to grant marriage equality. Currently, Illinois allows civil unions, but does not allow for the marriage of same-sex couples.
The bill passed the Illinois Senate in February, but House legislators failed to vote on it in the spring. The bill was then pushed to the fall veto session, which began the same day as the protest, leaving the deadline of the vote unknown. The decision now comes down to the state senators in favor of the bill, who are suspected to hold their votes until after January—when they will know who their opponents are.
Among those politicians in support of the bill is Sen. David Koehler, who was also present at the march.
“I think that [marriage equality] is an issue that has evolved over time, that more and more people across America are supporting,” Koehler said. “I think it’s not a matter of if this is going to happen, it’s a matter of when.”
The rally gathered people from all walks of life in support for marriage equality.
Former Roosevelt faculty member Belinda Bremner and her husband Jake Dickens were there to support their daughter, their daughter’s wife and their grandchild.
“The difficulties are things you would not think of unless you’ve been through them,” Bremner said. “[My daughter] thought, ‘I want a neighborhood where I don’t have to be afraid when I say to my wife, “Honey do we need more milk?” and people at the store spit at me. I want to be equal partners with my wife.’ It’s not easy to be anybody; it is that much harder to be different. It’s even more difficult to be different in a way that so many people in society disapprove of. That behavior always comes out of fear, and fear comes out of ignorance.”
Some may say that fear was especially prevalent the following day in Springfield, where various groups gathered to speak against same-sex marriage. Those opposed to same-sex marriages felt that it was went against the traditional or “natural” state of a marriage. Knowing this counter-protest was coming seemed to have made Tuesday’s rally all the more energetic.
During Tuesday’s rally, there were dozens of presenters, ranging from musicians, to politicians, to religious leaders. They all shared personal stories about adversity, struggle and empowerment. Equality seemed to be the theme of nearly every presentation.
The theme of equality extended to the audience and the various hand-made signs displayed to support the cause. Signs read sayings such as, “My cats deserve two moms,” and “The Gay Agenda: A: Equality. B: See A.”
The rally was concluded by the literal march around the State Capitol Building.
Though the rain continued to fall, that didn’t seem to take any energy away from the supporters; in fact, it seemed to have had the opposite effect. The protesters were marching, chanting and singing the entire way around the building, all in the name of equality.
As the Roosevelt students made their way back to Chicago, some chatting, some sleeping on the bus, the feeling of hope seemed to be almost tangible.
The March on Springfield was a small step towards equality, but a step in the right direction.