CHICAGO – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s hit comedy “Modern Family,” and marriage equality advocates urged supporters across the state today to make their voices heard on Illinois’ marriage equality bill.
“Marriage equality has widespread support in Illinois and is gaining momentum nationwide because more people recognize the importance the institution plays in protecting and recognizing families. Passing a marriage equality bill in Illinois is the right thing to do and we should do it now,” said Lt. Governor Simon, a longtime advocate for marriage equality and LGBT rights.
“I appreciate the hard work by Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans and three-time Emmy nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson for bringing much-deserved attention to this issue. I ask the citizens of Illinois to join us in a call for action by contacting their legislators and wearing one of my favorite accessories, the bow tie,” Lt. Governor Simon said.
Simon launched two days of action in support of marriage equality with Ferguson, his fiancé Justin Mikita, Rep. Harris and Rep. Deborah Mell in Chicago on Wednesday morning. 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.
They urged Illinoisans to call for lawmakers to pass the marriage equality bill during the January legislative session by e-mail and phone and to post words of support on their representatives’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, using the hash tag #ILequality. If successful, Illinois would become the 10th state to recognize marriage equality.
Advocates also encouraged capitol visitors to don bow ties on Thursday in support of Bow Tie Lobby Day in Springfield, when a marriage equality bill could be called for a vote. 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.
“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."
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.
"Illinois believes in basic fairness,” Rep. Harris said. “Whether you are from Chicago like I am, or Carbondale like Lt. Governor Simon, treating all families with equal respect under the law is a fundamental American value."
Simon, Ferguson and Mikita this afternoon will tour The Tie Bar, a Naperville-based company which sells the Tie the Knot bow ties. The first collection of Tie the Knot bow ties was introduced in November and sold out in just four weeks. Proceeds from the first line of bow ties will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign, with future profits being directed to other organizations.
"We have been honored to be partnered with Tie The Knot to design, manufacture and sell their bow ties benefitting marriage equality,” said Greg Shugar, owner of The Tie Bar. “Both my wife and I have always been strong supporters of marriage equality, so it's given us a chance – through The Tie Bar – to be part of the movement. And we've really enjoyed working directly with Jesse and Justin to help their vision come to life."
Ferguson plays Mitchell Pritchett, an openly 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.