Prop 8, at least for the time being, is dead. In a powerful decision released yesterday, a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that it violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. While the case will eventually be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the victory should embolden gay rights activists across the country, some of whom were justifiably worried that the U.S. legal system would validate similar discriminatory measures.
Like in the judiciary, support for gay rights is growing steadily in Illinois. While only about 42 percent support gay marriage outright, that figure has almost doubled since 1996, according to research from the Columbia University political science department. Among voters under 30, support soars to 63 percent. Nate Silver's model predicts that by 2012, a majority of Illinois residents would vote down a full gay marriage ban similar to the constitutional amendment introduced in February by GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady. And support for civil unions, which State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has been working feverishly to secure, is even higher. All the way back in 2005, a Northern Illinois University survey found that 65 percent of Illinoisans want to extend either full marriage or civil union rights to same-sex couples.
Speaking of Harris, he downplayed rumors this week that he was interested in Ald. Helen Shiller's (46th Ward) soon-to-be-vacant aldermanic seat. "One of the key reasons why I went to Springfield was to advance marriage equality in Illinois," he told the Illinois Observer on Tuesday, "and it remains undone."