This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a decision that represents a historic leap forward, based on values written into our Constitution almost 150 years ago. Relying on the Fourteenth Amendment’s declaration that all are entitled to the equal protection of the law, a majority of justices agreed that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who apply for them.
I remain proud that Illinois has been a leader in the quest for justice for LGBTQ people. Our state was among the first to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, give same-sex couples the option of a civil union and finally, in 2013, call these committed, state-sanctioned relationships between loving same-sex couples what they are: marriages.
Now, couples who wish to marry, regardless of gender, can enjoy in any state in America the rights we’ve affirmed here in Illinois. This victory will be long remembered in the history of America’s uneven but unstoppable progress toward living up to its foundational principles and, as Justice Kennedy put it, allowing all “persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”
My task as a legislator and our task as concerned citizens is now to make the Court’s decision and our existing laws reality on the ground, resisting the discrimination that still faces LGBTQ people, regardless of marital status. Our task is to continue working to make our schools, streets and homes safe for young people seeking to discover who they are. And our task is to keep taking up the cause of justice for all who don’t experience the equal protection of our laws in their daily lives.
I’m profoundly grateful to all of the advocates who brought us to this moment, and it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to work among the many people who tirelessly bend the arc of the universe toward justice.
This was the scene on the Senate floor when we first voted for marriage equality in Illinois on Valentine's Day 2013.