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Protestors rally for same-sex marriage vote

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Updated: April 21, 2013 3:14PM

AURORA — Protestors in support of and against legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois gathered outside state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia’s downtown Aurora office Saturday morning, hoping to sway the Democratic legislator who said she is split “50-50” on her vote.

The two-hour rally was coordinated by the Illinois Family Institute, a Carol Stream-based nonprofit whose mission is to “promote and defend Biblical truths to foster an environment where families can thrive and reach their full God-given potential.” The group passed out fliers asking protestors who lived in Chapa LaVia’s district to call her office to urge her to vote no on SB10.

That legislation passed the state Senate on Valentine’s Day in February with 34 “yes” votes and 21 “no” votes. Now it’s moving through the House, where legislators are getting calls from both sides hoping to change their minds before the bill is debated and voted upon.

The legislation would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois by redefining marriage as a union between two people, instead of a man and a woman. The legislation would not force any religious group to acknowledge same-sex marriage or provide a religious facility to conduct the service. The governor has pledged to sign the legislation if it passes both houses.

A counter-demonstration staged by supporters of the legislation also converged on the space in front of Chapa LaVia’s office Saturday.

Organizer estimates for attendance ranged from 450 to 1,000.

“We want to send a message to the representatives of Illinois, including Chapa LaVia,” said Edwin Ruiz, a Spanish-speaking pastor who is part of the International Federation of Chaplains and Human Rights, a group that has chapters across the United States. “I am here because I believe firmly in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The Bible is very specific about that.”

Both sides of the demonstration were quick to say they had assembled a diverse group of supporters that included faith leaders and Hispanics.

“There was far more diversity on our side,” said Peter LaBarbera, the founder and president of Naperville-based Americans for Truth, which does not support same-sex marriage. “I know (Chapa LaVia) has got a big decision here. Many Latinos are on the pro-traditional marriage side. And Aurora has a heavily Hispanic population.”

The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle, a pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Romeoville, came as part of the counter-demonstration to support the legislation.

She testified in Springfield in 2009 in support of legislation to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and did so again this year in favor of legalized same-sex marriage.

“This is a civil rights issue, not a religious issue,” she said, carrying a sign that read: “I am a pastor, I am a Christian, I support marriage equality.” “God willing, I won’t need it much longer,” she said as she put her sign down.

Juan Garcia, a 24-year-old Aurora resident and student at Waubonsee Community College, said he came out to pressure Chapa LaVia, who he’d heard was “on the fence” on her vote.

“Your own religious beliefs should not be applied to government policy,” Garcia said. “What Latinos need to understand is that this country has a strong history of religious freedoms.”

Reached by phone Saturday, Chapa LaVia said she was split 50-50 on her decision, but that she planned to cast a vote that would represent what her constituents wanted.

She said she’s been hearing from more residents in her district over the last two weeks asking her to vote “yes” on the legislation, but that she continues to take meetings with constituents on both sides of the issue and that she is “not shutting anyone out.”

She said her staff has been taking down phone numbers and addresses of anyone calling about the legislation to make sure the opinions she hears are of actual residents in her district, not outside special interest groups.

“I’m very grounded in my religion and my faith, but this has to be a democracy,” she said. “This is a very passionate issue and I make sure I don’t take any of this lightly.”

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