SPRINGFIELD – Building on Lt. Governor Sheila Simon’s efforts to support equal rights and marriage equality, advocates from Simon’s office welcomed Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s hit comedy “Modern Family” to Springfield today to lobby in support of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Thursday’s lobby day is part of Simon’s days of action to encourage residents to make their voices heard. Simon called on Illinoisans to write, call, visit, and Tweet to their legislators about Illinois’ gay marriage bill using the hash tag #ILequality.
“Passing a marriage equality bill in Illinois is the right thing to do, and we should do it now,” said Simon, a longtime advocate for marriage equality and LGBT rights. “People across Illinois recognize the importance marriage plays in protecting and recognizing families, and we need to ensure that our legislators hear that message, too.”
Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) joined Ferguson and his fiancé, Justin Mikita, in Springfield for the Bow Tie Lobby Day on Thursday morning. Steans is the chief Senate sponsor of House Bill 4963, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. The legislation will be heard in a morning meeting of the Senate’s Executive Committee.
Ferguson and Mikita recently launched a not-for-profit organization called “Tie The Knot,” a foundation that sells unique, limited-edition bow ties, with profits going to charitable organizations that are working for marriage equality throughout the country. The ties are sold exclusively through Illinois-based business, The Tie Bar.
“Justin and I are thrilled to be participating in Springfield's Bow Tie Lobby Day,” Ferguson said. “Drawing attention to the importance of marriage equality at this level is exactly why we developed Tie The Knot. We are also excited to see how the citizens and legislators of Illinois do with their bow tying skills."
Permitting same-sex marriage would offer many rights, protections and responsibilities to partners that currently can enter into civil unions but not wed in Illinois, supporters said. If successful, Illinois would become the 10th state to recognize same-sex marriage.
“It is important that we pass marriage equality now, and give same sex couples the rights and benefits that can only be obtained through marriage – but not civil unions” said Sen. Steans. “The legislature has taken up this issue in the past, and the time has come for Illinois to treat all couples equally.”
According to a recent Public Policy Poll, 47 percent of Illinois voters support marriage equality (compared to 42 percent who oppose), with 58 percent support among voters under the age of 45 (compared to 37 percent against). The marriage equality bill has also received support from the religious and business communities in Illinois. Last week, 260 Illinois clergy members issued a letter to legislators voicing their support for marriage equality, and Illinois business leaders cite increased worldwide competitiveness by permitting same-sex marriage.
Ferguson plays Mitchell Pritchett, a gay father, on “Modern Family,” which has earned him three Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. To learn more about Ferguson and Mikita’s foundation, visit TieTheKnot.org or TheTieBar.com.