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Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 12:20:37 PM CST

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Eunji Kim/MEDILL

Paige Beckwith, 25, of Atlanta, Ga., hopes there will be a same-sex marriage bill in her state soon.

Same-sex marriage chances look good in the House

by Eunji Kim
Feb 21, 2013


Eunji Kim/MEDILL

Wesley Leggette, 27, of Lakeview, says: “Gay No Problem”


Eunji Kim/MEDILL

Rob Alletto holds up a personal message: “Gay, Proud and Happy”

Being out of the closet can be hard.

Just ask: Rey Lopez-Calderon of the South Loop, a gay man who came out 20 years ago.

Lopez-Calderon, who is 39, recalls that he lost a close friend of five years when he came out.

“He was homophobic,” Lopez-Calderon said. “He told me that faggot stuff was messed up. He tried to be aggressive about it, saying that was wrong. I told him to buzz off.”

Fast forward 20 years to the Illinois General Assembly, where lawmakers have been debating a same-sex marriage proposal. State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) has said that she expects the bill, approved by the Senate, to pass the House when it comes up for a vote after committee debate scheduled next week. She added that she expected it to pass with bipartisan support. 

Lopez-Calderon lost his friend to bigotry 20 years ago, and a lot has happened to encourage greater acceptance and understanding of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. But has there been enough progress?

“There is certainly greater visibility for the LGBT community,” said Ashley Cargle, program coordinator of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at University of Chicago.

One sign of visibility is that more openly gay politicians are being elected to office, and in some cases their sexuality has not been a negative, if a campaign issue at all.

Take a look at Illinois.

There are four openly gay members in the General Assembly: representatives Greg Harris, Deb Mell and Kelly Cassidy, all of Chicago, and Sam Yingling, of Round Lake Beach. All are Democrats.

Tom Tunney was the first openly gay member elected to the Chicago City Council in 2003, just a month after being appointed to a vacant seat.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) followed, becoming Chicago’s second openly gay council member when he was elected in 2011.

Some supporters, however, wonder whether a same-sex marriage bill is enough progress.

“There is a huge amount of fear mongering in the LGBT community,” the University of Chicago’s Cargle said.

The fear, she says, stems from stigmas people have.

According to her, some people might think: “If homosexuals can marry, then it’s somehow ruining the sacredness of marriage” or “If all people can marry, than what can people marry next? Animals?”

Cargle also said when there is no longer a discussion, no longer people asking whether we need more progress, we will have achieved enough progress.

Rob Alletto, 51, of North Center, also recalls a time when he was ridiculed for being gay when he was a teenager.

Alletto said some people called him a fag and a sissy.

“I honestly thought there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be fixed,” he said. “I thought there was something in me that could be fixed.”

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Chicago) had been ambiguous about his stance on gay marriage, but has come out in support.

Last May, a Quinn aide said the governor joined President Obama in supporting marriage equality and was looking forward to working with the legislature.

Harris has introduced the same-sex marriage bill three times, in 2007, 2009 and 2012.

They all died in the committee.

Alletto said the bill that passed the state senate for the first time last week is a step in the right direction.

“Overall, the country is moving forward,” he said. “I don’t think it’s moving forward enough.”