In a rare move, President Obama issued a statement to the Illinois General Assembly urging it to legalize marriage equality in his home state.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday:
"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect."
"As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally."
This comes ahead of decision of the measure which could be taken up this week in Springfield. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner explained the debate currently taking shape in the state:
[A]dvocates are looking to push a bill in the first month of 2013. "Public sentiment is moving fast on this," state Sen. Heather Steans told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s just a wave now. It’s moving very quickly."
Anticipating the fight, the "Coalition to Protect Children and Marriage" was unveiled by opponents of the bill Dec. 18, and it includes the Illinois Family Institute, Eagle Forum of Illinois, Abstinence and Marriage Partnership, Illinois Citizens for Life PAC, Lake County Right to Life, Concerned Christian Americans, and Family-Pac.
The state already has civil unions, and two ongoing lawsuits, brought by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, challenge whether the differential treatment is constitutional under the Illinois Constitution.
[UPDATE: For more on Saturday's move, see BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner on how this is "another step" for Obama in the marriage equality debate.]