Evanston Democrats celebrate gay marriage in Illinois


Sarah Nelson/Daily Senior Staffer

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy received an award Sunday night from the Democratic Party of Evanston. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky presented awards to Cassidy, Rep. Greg Harris, and State Sen. Heather Steans for their work to promote the same-sex marriage bill that passed in Illinois last week.

Bailey Williams, Reporter

The Democratic Party of Evanston on Sunday night honored three state lawmakers at the forefront of the push for gay marriage in Illinois.

The party’s annual dinner came five days after the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation that would make same-sex marriage legal in the state. Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to sign the bill into law later this month.

“It’s one of those historic moments when we are breaking down a wall of discrimination,” Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told The Daily during the dinner. “Every generation gets a few chances to do that. This was our chance.”

The dinner brought more than 100 people to the new Skylight Event Space, 1818 Dempster St. State Reps. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), as well as Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), were recognized for their roles in helping pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) introduced the state legislators, calling their efforts historic.

“It really is not often that you do get to be a part of something like that,” Steans said. “It’s not really often that you get to be a part of changing history.”

As an openly gay member of the state legislature, Cassidy told the audience she is grateful to represent a district where she can stand for the bill “without fear.”

“Much of what we do doesn’t have direct impact,” Cassidy told The Daily. “It is very personal. It is very exciting. I’m looking forward to marrying my partner and making our family whole.”

Harris credited two other state lawmakers with helping advocate for the bill, including Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana). Despite personal issues, Jakobsson made the trek to Springfield and continued to fight for the passage of the bill, Harris said.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Harris told The Daily before the dinner. “You can see the direction the country is going. … We just had to pick up the ball and run with it in Illinois.”

The dinner was planned prior to the passage of the bill in the assembly Nov. 5. Quinn plans to sign the bill into law Nov. 20 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum. The law would not take effect until June 1.

DPOE board member Eamon Kelly said the event’s name “Liberal & Proud” was fitting of the night. Kelly said the party sold about 140 tickets a week before the dinner but ended up with 180 tickets sold by Sunday night. The event also drew Evanston Mayor Tisdahl and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

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