for Gay Rights Builds
Herald, June 29, 2003
P. O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL, 60006
By Teresa Mask Daily Herald Diversity Editor
The world is changing.
For better or worse, depending on whom you ask.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling and a record crowd
expected at today’s gay pride parade in Chicago, advocates and foes say the
gay rights movement is picking up steam.
The high court Thursday ruled it unconstitutional for
states to have laws forbidding gay men and women from having sex in their own
homes. That ruling has both sides of the movement boasting a burst of energy
as the fight for and against equal rights for gays and lesbians continues.
Gay people and supporters say they now are more
optimistic the fight for full equality indeed will occur during their
lifetime. They believe that will include an amendment to Illinois’ Human
Rights Act—and eventually gay marriages.
Those morally opposed to homosexuality are vowing to
fight to their last days against those measures. They say the approval is
wrong and could leave society scarred.
“To the day I die, I’m going to continue to speak the
truth,” said Kathy Valente, state director of the Illinois chapter of
Concerned Women. “I’m not hateful toward homosexuals. What I hate is their
behavior. I know that Jesus died for them, too.”
But people like Wheaton resident Mark Pence long ago
turned a deaf ear to the opposition. He said he’s focused on the future and
believes the Supreme Court ruling has set the pace.
“It energizes,” Pence said. “Something like this
energizes you, because you work so hard (for equality).”
“The world changed (Thursday). It was a groundbreaking
decision,” said State Sen. Carol Ronen, a Democrat from Chicago.
She believes that ruling, coupled with Canada’s recent
decision to legalize gay marriages and a proposal before Cook County
commissioners to allow same-sex couples to register and have their
relationships legally recognized, will pave the way for passage of an
anti-discrimination bill she is sponsoring.
Ronen’s bill seeks to add sexual orientation to the
Illinois Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination in other categories,
such as race and age. The measure, which has been proposed since the 1970s,
already has passed the Illinois House. It failed last session in the Senate,
even with a Democratic-controlled legislature, often seen as more liberal.
Ronen plans to reintroduce it the fall.
“We’re lagging behind the rest of the world,” she
said. “Legislators haven’t caught up with their constituents. By November,
we expect to have more people aboard.”
What Ronen and others are doing sends symbolic messages
that will be heard loud and clear by young gays, said Patrick Finnessy,
director of the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgendered Concerns
at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“It is going to be healthier and safer to come out,”
That image is scary to those who morally oppose
“We’re looking at a trend here all over the world,”
said Arlene Sawicki, a South Barrington resident and staunch Catholic.
“People are becoming more tolerant and embracing homosexuality as a civil
“Same-sex marriage is really what bothers me. God
ordained marriage before we did,” she says.
But many believe it’s just a matter of time before the
state rules that same-sex couples can legally marry.
“This really is a new era,” said Lisa Neff, editor of
the gay newspaper Chicago Free Press.
She said people she has interviewed on the issue used to
think gay marriages wouldn’t happen in their lifetime. Now they are
predicting legality could come fairly soon.
Paul Caprio is fired up to redouble efforts against the
movement. He said he’ll fight the anti-discrimination bill and the Cook
County domestic partner registry proposal. The document recognizes gay couples
but does not give them marriage rights.
“That registry is not worth the paper its written
on,” said Caprio, executive director of the conservative Family PAC Illinois
group. “Marriage is something that is much more serious.”
Rick Garcia, political director for Equality Illinois,
said that while not truly a marriage license, the document will offer hope for
the future and a sense of approval for gays and lesbians in committed
Garcia, who in 1987 was arrested protesting the Supreme
Court decision upholding a Georgia sodomy case similar to the one ruled on
last week, said the decision affirms the human dignity of gays and lesbians,
so he is not worried about the future.
“Increasingly, anti-gay foes are small and fringing,”
Garcia said, adding that a recent poll had 70 percent of Americans agreeing
with the high court’s decision.
Concerned Women’s Valente concedes those on her side of
the fight have been less vocal in recent years.
“I guess I have to be painfully honest and say unless a
majority of people stand up and do something about it, they (gays) are just
going to have their way,” she said. “I see this movement gaining momentum.
I see it almost as a locomotive out of control.”
Pence said, for now, he believes the train is headed in
the right direction.
“I would say if (President) Bush put in someone
conservative, then for the rest of our lives, the gay movement is dead,”
Pence said. “If he puts a moderate in there, things will be better.
“People will soon realize we are not a three-headed
monster and we will assimilate into society and it (being gay) will be no big
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