Ill. lawmakers consider same-sex marriage bill - New York News

`Modern Family` star shows support for same-sex marriage bill

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EVANSTON, Ill. (FOX 32 News) -

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon spoke at the Thompson Center Wednesday morning, in support of the proposed Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

SEE: Illinois Senate returns to Springfield, wrapping up session

"Modern Family" star and openly-gay actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson appeared with Simon in Chicago to show his support. Ferguson said he struggled with coming out but having a president who supports gay marriage gives him hope.

They recommended more people should get involved by calling their legislators to voice their opinions, as well as taking to social media to make their voices heard – even by using the hashtag #ILequality.

Ferguson plays Mitchell Pritchett on the show. He's launching a "Bow Tie Lobby Day" in Springfield Thursday. It symbolizes tying the knot. He and partner Justin Mikita will be getting married later this year.

Supporters said momentum in other states will work in their favor. They've received support from top business executives, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and some clergy members. Governor Quinn has indicated that he will sign off on this bill, should it come to him.

It's unclear whether the Illinois bill has the support needed to pass, but it has one high-profile backer. President Barack Obama has encouraged the General Assembly to support the bill.

Carlos Briones and Richard Rykhus, supporters of the bill, said that after adopting their son, Ty'ree, several years ago they wanted to formalize their relationship in marriage.

"We're in this long term, committed loving relationship, but it's not quite recognized the same way," Rykhus says. "And it was confusing for him. And we just really want him to have the same sense that all other kids have, that his family has the same standing as every other family out there."

Some opponents of gay marriage, though, said Illinois law should not try to overturn what they call natural law.

"A man is not a mother. And a woman is not a father. They never have been. And they never will be," says Paul Caprio of the Illinois Family PAC. "And that's the primary reason that we oppose this legislation."

While advocates are hopeful to get the vote to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois this week, opponents - including Cardinal Francis George - urged Catholics to oppose the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

The cardinal issued a letter Tuesday calling laws permitting same-sex marriage a "legal fiction" and directing the local Catholic faithful to contact state legislators and make their beliefs known. He put it this way:

"...like the state, the Church cannot change the natural basis of marriage. Does this mean that the Church is anti-gay? No, for the Church...respects each one personally..."

"It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love," George writes in the letter, meant for inclusion in parish bulletins to be distributed this upcoming weekend. "Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage."

George writes that despite the church's anti-gay marriage position, the church itself is not anti-gay. He points to a number of groups for Catholic gays, including AGLO, a 25-year-old program that meets for mass weekly at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Boystown.

"[T]he Church welcomes everyone, respects each one personally and gives to each the spiritual means necessary to convert to God's ways and maintain friendship with Christ," George writes, later continuing, "People live out their sexual identity in different ways, but the church offers the means to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible."

George called Illinois legislators moving to legalize same-sex marriage "acting against the common good of society. We will all have to pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race."

There are nearly 2.5 million Catholics in the northeastern section of Illinois. A lot of them do agree with what the cardinal has to say. But there are also a large number of individuals in Illinois that disagree.

Longtime gay activist Rick Garcia, director of The Civil Rights Agenda's Equal Marriage Illinois Project, called George's position "unfortunate" in an email.

"How the Church — or any faith — views marriage within its own institution is one thing, but secular society treats marriage as a civil right," said Garcia, who described himself as a practicing Catholic. "No individual or church, including Cardinal George and the Catholic Church is going to be forced to perform or recognize any marriages they would not find consistent with their own beliefs. . . . What also will not change is the fact that secular society views marriage as a fundamental civil right that should be afforded to all."

George ends his letter by directing readers to www.ilcatholic.org, the Website for the Catholic Conference of Illinois, which includes contact information for state legislators. Also signing the letter are six auxiliary bishops.

The cardinal's strong words likely will not come as a surprise for gay-rights advocates. In 2011, during a television interview, George compared the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan. He was weighing in on a controversy surrounding changes to the gay pride parade's route and start time, which would have sent the busy parade by Our Lady of Mount Carmel during Mass.

Gay-rights activists demanded an apology, and some called for him to resign. He apologized for the remarks, which he said were meant in the context of groups attempting to stifle religious freedom.

Ty'ree's adoptive parents took him to visit Carlos's family in Mexico for the Christmas holidays. They said they don't want him to grow up in an all-male environment.

"It's important for him to have women in his life. And we have very good female friends, role models, his grandmother," Briones says.

"We're not asking anyone to change their religious views," Rykhus explains. "We are asking to abide by the separation of church and state. And we're just asking for recognition under the civil law, not under any church law."

The Sun-Times Media Wire and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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