Black Illinois ministers remain split on gay marriage after Supreme Court ruling

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CHICAGO—Following the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions resulting in more quality for the LGBT community, African-American ministers in Illinois who are proponents rejoice at the country, and possibly the state, becoming a step closer to “marriage equality,” while opponents pledge to continue the fight against local legislation.

“I’m elated, so that we can get past this to let many tax-paying and very often God-loving and Christ-following same-gender American [couples] enjoy equal rights, something that Dr. King lost his life for,” said Bishop Carlton Pearson, who leads the New Dimensions Worship Center in Chicago.

The Supreme Court Wednesday struck down a portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that same-sex couples who are legally married should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

Minutes after the landmark ruling, the Supreme Court cleared the way for gay marriage in California by maintaining that defenders of the state’s gay marriage ban didn’t have the right to appeal a lower court’s rulings that struck down the ban.

Gay marriage still undecided in Illinois

Rev. Dr. Richard L. Tolliver, director of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Chicago said how happy he was to hear of the Supreme Court rulings and how he didn’t anticipate any other decision. He described the DOMA decision as a door opener for states like Illinois, where same-sex marriage is still illegal.

“I think in other jurisdictions, what the DOMA decision does is open up the way for more litigation to expand marriage equality in those states that currently don’t offer it,” Tolliver told theGrio. “The Supreme Court set a precedent. There will be more cases that come to it and within a few years, they will rule that marriage equality will quickly become something legal in the United States.”

Within undecided states, Tolliver said, “I think what you will see is that at least among politicians in jurisdictions where people are divided, these rulings give them the cover they need to become more aggressive in pushing marriage equality in their respective legislative areas.”

Currently 12 states and the District of Columbia have adopted same-sex marriage, however the issue continues to remain up for debate in Illinois, which passed Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, in the state Senate on Valentine’s Day.

The Illinois House of Representatives closed its most recent session without a vote on the issue and several congressmen still undecided.

Support in the governor’s office

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who in 2011 signed into law civil unions in the state, has said that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

“I will continue working with members of the Illinois House and all of our tireless community advocates to bring marriage equality to Illinois as soon as possible,” Quinn said in a statement Wednesday about the Supreme Court action on DOMA.

The issue has been particularly contentious among black ministers across Illinois, many of whom hail from conservative churches and communities that have traditionally opposed gay marriage, stating that it redefines the Bible’s definition of marriage.