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 the Journal.

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.

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 5:12 PM

4 freedom- I agree. over the last 20 years and likely before that, those elected to office have had the mentality that they are appointed to keep the people safe. At a certain point we really need to look at going back to the idea of personal responsibility. relating that to gay marriage, what two adults do in the privacy of their own home is their own business. If homosexuality is legal then the state should not discriminate and issue a license. too bad SB10 didn't pass, I hoped it would

4 Freedom  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 2:28 PM

I love how liberals and conservatives fight over what the government can force us to do or not do. Conservatives want to tell us who we can't marry and be the world police. Liberals know what's best for our money and fight to force business to have more meatless options. How about less force and more personal choice as long as it don't harm anyone?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 2:15 PM

For those opposed to gay marriage, is it possible to hold on to that position and still support the legalization of it? I can think of a number of legal activities that folks who oppose gay marriage wouldn't partake. But I don't see them looking to ban those things with the same gusto as blocking gay marriage. And Rep. Ford's last quote, about where their focus should be for those opposed, is worth considering.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 1st, 2013 12:02 PM

"They shall surely be put to death". That's also an important part of the condemnation of homosexuals of the biblical law you cited, Marsha. I trust that you faithfully adhere to everything "the bible clearly states" in Leviticus including: "Don't wear clothes made of more than one fabric". "Don't cut your hair nor shave". "Don't plant more than one crop in a field." Can you just pick and choose for your own convenience? Doesn't it have to be all or nothing? Are you also willing to make sure that "people who have flat noses, or is blind or lame cannot go an altar of God." That's biblical law.

Marsha Myrthil from Chicago   

Posted: June 1st, 2013 9:57 AM

I am disappointed that Rep Ford has come to this decision. The bible clearly states that this is an abomination and to say that God condones this is not right.

Patricia Brauner from Oak Park  

Posted: May 31st, 2013 3:03 PM

Thank you, Rep. Ford.

Diane Duffy from north riverside  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 8:15 PM

thank you

Kaiya Iverson from Lisle  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 6:43 PM

Good decision! You can't go wrong when you stand on the side of love.

Dale from oak park  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 3:32 PM

Thank you, Rep. Ford

Laurie Edwards from Ogden  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 7:49 AM

Wonderful new, Rep. Ford. Glad you're with us, Sir. Now....can you help convince those who have not yet seen the light?

Ken Mertes from Carol Stream  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 12:04 AM

Each of us must come to their own decision about marriage equality, at their own pace, and for their own reasons. In the end just a simple "it's time to do the right thing" seems to work for many. Thanks for your support Representative!

Michelle Mascaro & Corynne Romine from Oak Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 7:45 PM

As Oak Park residents and plaintiff's in the ACLU lawsuit for same sex marriage filed last year, we are proud of Representative Ford for his committment to fairness for all. We hope his decision, long in coming, and thoughtfully made, will help his colleagues find the moral courage to support this bill. Thank you, Representative Ford!

Kathy Kinsella from Hinsdale  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 7:44 PM

Well done. You have my future support.

Carmella Rosenbach  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 5:13 PM


Rick McVey from River Forest  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 4:21 PM

Thank you for your decision. I will work for your campaign next time. I will work to defeat Rep. Welch if he votes against this fairness act to enable all loving couples to marry.

Patrick from Forest Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 3:36 PM

Thank you representative Ford for having the courage to support this bill!!!! I was so thankful that the area of Forest Park south of Roosevelt Rd was not under Welch's representation in Springfield!! Hopefully though, he will also support this bill!

Stephen Brown from Mayo  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 3:16 PM

I think Jesus said to love others like we love him. I believe you are following that commandment.

Wayne Franklin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 2:44 PM

Thank you Rep. Ford. We now need your colleague in River Forest to vote yes as well!

Velna Kolodziej from Oak Park  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 2:30 PM

Rep Ford is proving to be a thoughtful legislator. Rep Welch hasn't had to deal with similiar pressures from the communities which he represents - what has he to say? Churches have always been able to turn away those marriages they choose not to sanctify. This bill specifically gives them that right to discriminate.


Posted: May 28th, 2013 12:50 PM

What does the vote totals in the House look like now?

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 12:14 PM

This is one of the few bills before the General Assembly which, if passed, hurts nobody. Nada, Not a soul. In those states and countries that have passed similar legislation, civilization and the family have not collapsed. Hopefully our Rep Chris Welch will have the good sense to also support this bill.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 28th, 2013 11:39 AM

Thank you Rep. Ford, Lilly, Harris and Sen. Harmon!

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