Illinois Unites Unveils $2 Million Campaign to Win The Freedom To Marry In Illinois

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
July 17, 2013 12:00 am

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CHICAGO – Today, Illinois Unites for Marriage announced a renewed strategy designed to win the freedom to marry in Illinois, including hiring a Campaign Manager, Field Director, and Faith Organizer. The strategic plan also includes a new statewide field program, a coordinated House party engagement program, and a robust earned and paid media campaign.

The $2 million dollar campaign will include 15 field organizers placed throughout the state to engage with the ‘silent majority’ of voters who support marriage equality. The field organizers will be supported by mail and phone programs targeting legislators who don’t currently support the freedom to marry. The campaign will also reach out to the statewide LGBTQ community through a series of house parties designed to educate people about how they can be involved in passing marriage equality. Additionally, Illinois Unites is planning a robust media campaign, featuring Illinois residents who are currently being denied the federal benefits they could get outside of their home state.

“I’m excited to lead this already strong leadership team. Our expanded leadership structure brings together labor, political, community and religious organizing, creating a ground-game that directly engages voters to win the freedom to marry in Illinois.” said John Kohlhepp, the newly-tapped Campaign Manager for Illinois Unites.

Funds for the stepped-up campaign will come from a broad range of organizations and individuals, including:

  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Freedom to Marry
  • Lambda Legal
  • Equality Illinois
  • The Civil Rights Agenda
  • ACLU of Illinois

“With the recent Supreme Court ruling on DOMA, Illinois families need marriage more urgently than ever, and they shouldn’t have to travel outside of our borders to get it. Illinois Unites will bring same-sex couples and their children the protections and responsibilities of marriage as soon as possible,” Kohlhepp said.

John Kohlhepp, a labor lobbyist on leave from AFSCME Council 31, comes to Illinois Unites with over ten years of lobbying experience, having run statewide field efforts during the Responsible Budget Coalition’s campaign to increase the income tax. Additionally, he has directed field efforts in multiple Congressional and legislative districts in every election cycle since 2004. Field Director Keron Blair, an organizer on leave from the Midwest Academy, worked in New Orleans post-Katrina and, while at Interfaith Worker Justice, engaged religious leaders in healthcare, immigration and labor campaigns. Faith Organizer Reverend Benjamin Reynolds joins Illinois Unites with a vast amount of pastoral experience and recently served as the Director of the LGBTQ Religious Studies Center at Chicago Theological Seminary.

“The next few months are critical. Representatives in Springfield have said they want to hear from their constituents, a growing majority of whom believe in the freedom to marry. We are expanding our field plan to make sure their voices are heard,” said Jim Bennett, Chair of the Illinois Unites Coalition. “This team has a track record of getting things done, and they know how to pressure from the outside while working to get the 60 votes we need and get this bill called. Marriage is coming to Illinois.”

Illinois Unites for Marriage, the statewide coalition working to win the freedom to marry in Illinois, has been strengthening and expanding its statewide efforts in recent weeks. It recently announced a series of community meetings to be held throughout the state to communicate with and seek input from marriage supporters living in districts of targeted Representatives. Already, $500,000 has been raised toward the two million dollar campaign, funded by donations and grants, which will support the expanded field effort. A list of field organizing opportunities with Illinois Unites can be accessed here.

Senate Bill 10–the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act–passed the Illinois Senate on February 14 and is awaiting action in the Illinois House of Representatives. After the House adjourned on May 31 without acting on the bill, its life was extended to August 31, 2013, with further extensions likely into the veto session in late October and early November.

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