State Rep. Ford declares gay marriage support

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

It didn't come quickly, the decision to support the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, but on Memorial Day when State Rep. LaShawn Ford said he would vote this week in favor of gay marriage in Illinois, the choice seemed clear to him.

"This is a well-thought-out decision," he said in an exclusive interview with Wednesday Journal, a sister newspaper of Austin Weekly News.

Ford, a one-time seminarian, said he had prayed over it. He said he has been swamped with strong opinions from constituents on both sides of the controversy. He acknowledged he has felt heavy lobbying from a politically active segment of the black clergy.

In the end, though, he said "it is like the time has come" for gay marriage to be legal.

"When you think about the moral issue, this is about advancing opportunity," he said, "the opportunity for all people to pursue life, liberty and happiness. As Democrats we are about opportunity, about including people, not excluding."

Ford, the 8th District state representative for Oak Park and the West Side, said he expects the bill to be called on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. He said a portion of his support is owing to his respect for state Rep. Greg Harris, the Chicago Democrat who is the legislation's sponsor. He credited Harris with always being "very respectful" even in a town as political as Springfield.

"He has always supported issues important to the neighborhoods I represent," said Ford.

Ultimately, said Ford, "What really turns me is how the gay and lesbian community has taken a page from the Civil Rights Movement. I respect the hard work, the tenacity, the fortitude, the organization of the gay community in pursuing this. This should remind the African-American community what hard work [on political issues] does. This will go down in history as an example of how to effect change in the world."

Ford agreed there has traditionally been a cultural discomfort among some blacks towards homosexuality. But he says that is changing as the attitudes of the whole society shift on the issue. He pointed to a recent poll indicating that 60 percent of Illinois African Americans now support marriage equality.

"When you look at the struggles of African Americans, or immigrants, or gays and we find an example we can teach our children on how to create human change," he said.

Ford, who is under federal indictment on bank fraud charges, said his legal troubles are irrelevant to his current efforts and decisions in Springfield. Last week a judge set Ford's trial for next April.

He won't be surprised if there is pushback from some black clergy who have mobilized with press conferences and robocalls to pressure black legislators to oppose the marriage equality act. But Ford points to the protections built into the law, which allow churches to follow their beliefs in choosing whether to perform or recognize gay marriages.

"If they see this as against God then this is a call to action for them to go out and save souls," he said. "Every week ministers have the opportunity to change the hearts of people."

As the vote nears, the Sun-Times reports that state Rep. Camille Lilly of Oak Park and Austin will support the measure, that Rep. Chris Welch of River Forest and Forest Park remains undecided. But as of now LaShawn Ford is clearly in the yes to gay marriage column.

Reader Comments

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Milagro from Chicago  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 1:30 PM

I want Austin weekly to either print all of my comment of none of it. Austin Weekly did not printed only a portion of what I said and left out the most important part of my comment. Do you really want a comment or you want to print what you want to hear?

Milagro Reynolds from Chicago  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 9:27 AM

I have to add, sometimes God removes us from a place or situation and we don't understand why, especially if you love what your doing and those you work with. In time you finally understand and I Thank God for removing me from what you saw coming long before I did.

Milagro Reynolds from Chicago  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 9:22 AM

I am sorry to hear that, but then some people always go with whats popular not whats bibical. But then again, it's always been to go with the flow, because it's so much easier, then to go against sin.

wayne from Hallandale,FL  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 11:00 AM

Consider also the economic effect. Gay couples who live in an enslavement state will flock to a free state to live their married lives. You can bet that smart businesses will follow them, eager to capitalize on this pool of contented workers and eager to throw off the expense of maintaining 2 different employee benefit programs. The enslavement states, like Wisconsin, will learn quickly that their enshrined bigotry will become very expensive!

Chuck Anziulewicz from Charleston, West Virginia  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 10:25 AM

Mr. Ford's support for marriage equality simply reflects the fact that Americans are learning to make better value judgments. Why is it that Straight couples are encouraged to date, get engaged, marry and build lives together in the context of monogamy and commitment, and that this is a GOOD thing ? yet for Gay couples to do exactly the same is somehow a BAD thing? To me this seems like a very poor value judgment.

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