For once, I feel proud to be an Illinoisan.
When I heard that the state house would vote to legalize gay marriage again, I was anxious. Unlike other states, the bill had support and opposition within both parties. When they first voted earlier this year, a coalition of Democrats and moderate "collar county" Republicans were narrowly defeated by both Christian conservatives and African-American Democrats (also on religious grounds). This time around, a handful of black representatives were persuaded to change their minds, and same-sex marriage was legalized by the same narrow margin. Governor Pat Quinn, a career Democrat who has waffled on the sanctity of marriage in the past, agreed to sign the bill when it lands on his desk. Effective next Spring, the Land of Lincoln will be the 15th state to pass such a law. Today in Illinois, logic and freedom trumped bigotry.
Besides the obvious, I'm feeling a new sense of state pride because for once, Springfield actually passed some legislation. Our state government can't approve a budget, but we passed this. Most other issues are just as divided along party lines as anything else in the country. With the GOP assuming control of the state senate last year --the Illinois Republicans' first semblance of moving forward since George Ryan left the governor's office nearly 11 years ago-- nothing is in lockstep. Ineffectual legislating and infighting among state Democrats resulted in losing seats in both houses last November, and Quinn is no sure shot to be reelected next November.
Since assuming the governor's seat after Rod Blagojevich's impeachment, Pat Quinn has been a stable but underwhelming leader. On multiple occasions I've accused Quinn of being indecisive and doddering, as if Illinois was a dysfunctional family and Quinn is the hapless old uncle who has final say on everything. Despite the infighting, Quinn is the state Democrats' only hope in 2014; early contention from Attorney General Lisa Madigan (daughter of State Speaker/svengali Mike) and former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley (son and brother of former Chicago mayors) both flamed out early. Where Madigan was undone by her father's myriad controversies, Daley didn't feel equipped to run for office.
It's a shame of sorts, because there's a group of seven or eight Republican challengers ready to rip Quinn to shreds next year; whether this turns into Obama vs. Romney in miniature remains to be seen. The state of Illinois has taken a more liberal turn in recent years, something that Quinn can only take half credit for; after legalizing medicinal marijuana and allowing non-U.S. citizens to get driver's licenses, gay marriage was the next logical step. At the same time, Quinn's indecisiveness and unsteady hand of leadership are his undoing, and he is understandably vulnerable to lose his job one year from now. Quinn's best hope is that the wide stable of GOP candidates nearly cancel each other out, just like they did in 2010.
Drama aside, it's a great day to be an Illinoisan.