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Gay marriage bill: Shock and shame in Illinois

OPINION

  • Stephen Barke of Chicago was among those calling for marriage equality at a March rally downtown.
Stephen Barke of Chicago was among those calling for marriage equality… (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago…)
May 31, 2013|By Waymon Hudson, @waymonhudson | For RedEye

The wounds are fresh as I struggle to make sense of the news that the Illinois House adjourned its session Friday with no vote on marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Is there a specific emotion I feel? No. It’s a whirlwind of anger, shock, disappointment, shame and, oddly, determination.

I have been with my husband for 12 years. And yes, he is my husband.

We have traveled the winding road of relationship recognition over the years. We had a “commitment ceremony” with family when that was our only option. We had a civil union in Vermont when it was the only state in the country that allowed them. We finally got legally married in California in 2008 before Prop 8 passed, grandfathering us in to a kind of marriage limbo. We lived in Florida during the dark days when they passed their constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. We even celebrated moving to Illinois and seeing the state pass civil unions, even though it legally downgraded our existing marriage.

In short, we’ve navigated the maze of what it means to be a same-sex couple simply wishing to declare their love—and access the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.

That’s why there is such an emotional reaction in my heart. I’ve had to sit through the long process of watching legislators, judges, politicians, priests, organizations and every other possible person weigh in on what my relationship should or shouldn't be. I’ve had to listen to people I don’t even know vilify, judge, cheer and condemn my love for the person I spend my life with.

And now I’ve had to see my home state elected officials pass the buck and decline to even bring my basic rights as a married man up for a vote.

But beyond the outrage and disappointment I feel in some of our elected leaders, one emotion, seemingly out of place, rises to the surface: determination. If I have learned anything on this long road to equality, it is that the fight is never over.

As ridiculous as it is to have to lobby or sue for your basic rights, it is the hand we are dealt. And momentum is on our side.

So am I mad that the Illinois House decided Friday that I can carry a concealed gun to the beach, but not marry my husband of 12 years? Absolutely. But we’ve come too far to give up now.

I know, despite our setbacks, that justice and equality will prevail. While Illinois may have been on the wrong side of history this time, our anger will fuel our determination to win in the future.

And in the meantime, I will be living proudly and openly with my husband for all to see.

Waymon Hudson is a RedEye special contributor.


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