The week of May 20, former Ravens player Brendan Ayanbadejo and Civil Rights Activist Julian Bond will provide robo-calls to help persuade the districts of Illinois House Black Caucus members of the LGBT community’s right to marry.
“It’s time to take those steps once again in Illinois. We need to let the world know that Illinois accepts all people regardless of who they love,” Ayanbadejo told the Chicago Sun Times.
Born in Illinois, the professional footballer has been an outspoken LGBT rights advocate and a straight ally encouraging gay athletes to come out of the closet. Publicly lending his support last month, Julian Bond is the Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP National Board of Directors.
“I’ve spent my life as a civil rights activist, working to make our society more just and fair for all of us. It is that commitment to equality that has led me to support marriage for all committed couples,” Bond said in his letter.
“My gay and lesbian brothers and sisters simply want the freedom to make that same commitment. And they deserve the same protection that my wife and I have. It’s just that simple.”
Illinois Democrat Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago signed as the co-sponsor of the bill.
“Julian Bond’s endorsement of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act sends a strong statement to Illinois House members that the desire of couples to express their lifelong love and raise their families through the bonds of marriage knows no boundaries,” said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov in a press release.
Hoping to target the Black Caucus members, their vote may possibly sway the equality issue with many Republicans switching to a pro-equality stance, like Republican Chair Pat Brady and Republican Illinois Senator Mark Kirk.
“We’ve been trying to pass marriage equality since January,” Equality Illinois’s Director of Public Policy Randy Hannig told 429Magazine last month. “It’s very important that Illinois’ highest-ranking Republican officeholder came out in favor of marriage equality. It helps our argument with moderate Republicans.”
The robo-calls hope to sway constituents to connect with their lawmakers to vote for the equality bill.
Equality opponents have recruited influential Rev. James Meeks for their own robo-calls with Chicago-based African American Clergy Coalition joining forces with the National Organization for Marriage.
“I believe that most of your family-oriented organizations thought, erroneously, the majority of the African-American community is behind a liberal agenda, period,” said the New Zion Christian Fellowship Church of Dolton’s Senior Pastor Bishop Lance Davis, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “They found out the African-American church is very conservative.”
Last month, a collection of prominent faith leaders requested immediate equal protection to all Illinoisans.
“We should treat all families with equality and respect and the Illinois legislature should act now,” said the thirteen clergy leaders during the press conference.
“The numbers of opponents say the African-American community does not support marriage equality but that’s simply not true, as is shown by polling numbers in the high 50s or lower 60s,” said Hannig. “Today’s news conference helps contradict our opponents’ message and further underscores our desire to be treated with equity and respect.”
According to a Reuters poll, 63 percent of Americans support marriage equality or civil unions.