Tisdahl, Emanuel sign on to national campaign in support of same-sex marriage

Alexandria Johnson

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel signed on to the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign, which launched at the 80th U.S. Conference of Mayors on Friday.

The campaign calls for the mayors to advocate marriage equality in their communities and to push for legalizing same-sex marriage. Tisdahl and Emanuel attended the conference, an annual meeting at which mayors from around the country gather with leaders in Washington to discuss city issues.

“What the mayors are hoping is that we’ll increase the number of mayors who sign on and that will increase the pressure on the legislatures to make marriage legal for everyone,” Tisdahl told The Daily. “We hope we’ll succeed in our goal of making marriage available to everyone. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Since Friday’s conference, more than 100 mayors have signaled their support for the campaign, said Jackie Yodashkin, communications director for Freedom to Marry.

“We have a lot of people helping us to make this happen, and it’s really important to the mayors and the program,” Yodashkin said.

In June, Illinois legalized civil unions for same-sex couples. Now LGBT activist groups are collaborating with state legislators to propose a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in Illinois, though it likely will not come up for a vote until at least 2013.

A cadre of Chicago Democrats composed of state Sen. Heather Steans, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, state Rep. Greg Harris, state Rep. Deb Mell and state Rep. Ann Williams are spearheading the legislation.

One group teaming up with the state legislators is Equality Illinois. Freedom to Marry contacted the organization to spread its message in the state and help rally mayoral support for the campaign.

Thus far at least a dozen Illinois mayors have joined the pledge, said Randy Hannig (Weinberg ‘02), current director of public policy for Equality Illinois.

“We just want to say thanks so much to the mayors for their support,” Hannig said. “If there is anything to do to help out them out with reaching their constituents, they can give us a call.”

Even though Emanuel publicly pledged his support, some gay rights groups in Chicago say issues remain.

Activists at Join the Impact Chicago, an organization dedicated to LGBTQ equality, voiced concerns about the Chicago mayor’s new protesting ordinances interfering with its advocacy efforts. On Wednesday, Emanuel proposed ordinances to regulate hours for public protesting and hike fines for demonstrators resisting arrest.

“Join the Impact Chicago has consistently advocated for full marriage equality, and we welcome Mayor Emanuel’s voice to this fight,” JTIC said in an email to The Daily on Sunday. “However, JTIC is far more concerned about the mayor’s recent anti-protesting ordinance, which severely limits local groups’ ability to advocate for any social issues, including equal marriage.”

Tisdahl said “marriage makes a community stronger” and expects the city will support the campaign.

“I think the Evanston community is usually far ahead of me, so I don’t think I’m going to need to bring them into this,” Tisdahl said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

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