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College Democrats push Illinois same-sex marriage

Alexa Santos/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg freshman Kevin Cheng makes a phone call during the College Democrats phone banking event. The group reached out to local residents in favor of allowing same-sex marriage in Illinois.

Junnie Kwon, Assistant Campus Editor

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Northwestern College Democrats showed their support for same-sex marriage in Illinois by hosting a phone-banking session Tuesday night in Technological Institute.

Gay marriage is one of several issues the group is focusing on now that President Barack Obama has been re-elected.

“People support marriage equality, but they don’t know how to get involved,” College Democrats president Lauren Izaak said. “It’s more than just agreeing with it. You’re actually making a difference for a bill that doesn’t come up every year.”

In February, the state Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage. The proposal could be voted on by the state House of Representative any time this week.

About 15 students called constituents of an Illinois state representative who has not announced a clear opinion on the issue, asking them to leave voicemail messages with their state lawmaker.

After focusing on the presidential campaign in the fall and a speaker event in the winter, the student group decided to direct its energy to legislative issues in the spring, said Kevin Cheng, chair of the group’s new marriage equality committee. To maximize progress in the group’s legislative initiative, it created new committees dedicated to specific issues such as same-sex marriage, income equality and gun control early Spring Quarter.

Cheng said he reached out to Charlie Rice-Minoso, a representative of Equality Illinois, who told him phone banking was the most efficient way to get involved in support of the bill. Cheng recalled speaking with a woman who adamantly supported the issue but didn’t know how to get involved.

“She didn’t know how to get in contact with her representative,” Cheng said. “It was great because I was able to transfer her directly to the voicemail.”

Rice-Minoso, who grew up with gay uncles, said it is more effective to leave voicemail messages with state representatives than state senators because they are more in touch with their constituents. He said students play a special role in social activism.

“Any time social issues are developing and are starting to change, it’s always through young people,” Rice-Minoso said. “Student participation is really key, not just as volunteers but as a guiding light because students will eventually, upon graduation, be a part of the workforce.”