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The path to victory in Illinois

Victory! Such a sweet and beautiful feeling after months of phone calls, canvassing, and boots-on-the-ground activism... We won marriage equality here in Illinois. This is how we did it.

Celebrations broke out at the Capitol in Springfield.

We're proud to have been a part of the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition. Our fight on this issue started in grassroots, with the activism and passion of our Springfield volunteers. They became involved in the fight when we first thought a vote would be called in May. When that didn't happen, OFA-IL Chapter Lead Scott Cross asked the state leadership and his fellow chapters to take action to urge lawmakers in Springfield to bring marriage equality to a vote as part of the special session this fall.

We brought on Chris Percy, an amazing issue organizer, to solidify the field efforts and act as a resource for our volunteers on the campaign. Chris quickly went to work setting up regular phone banks and canvasses all across the state. He brought on a group of gay African American men from a South Side congregation, specifically working to target representatives in the black caucus who were on the fence. The Lighthouse Church group held multiple services that ultimately turned into phone banks, tying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for justice everywhere to our fight here in Illinois.

Organizers with the Lighthouse Church group.

The fight reached a pinnacle on October 22nd when more than 3,000 brightly clad, proud and allied marriage equality supporters flooded the Illinois Capitol for the opening of the veto session. Bearing signs with slogans like "Love is love" and "No justice until equal," marchers poured off buses and out of vehicles from all around the state.

The group rallied in the rotunda with remarks by the governor, Senator Durbin and bill sponsors, and then marchers took to the streets in front of the Capitol. After a little musical entertainment and more speakers, the march began to move, completing a full circle around the Capitol building chanting "Call the bill!"

OFA-Springfield volunteers Blake and Susan carry our banner at the October 22nd March in Springfield.

With the kickoff of this session, our volunteers redoubled their efforts, collecting thousands of petitions in high traffic canvasses and holding dozens of phone banks in the last two weeks of the fight. On the morning of November 5th, word came quickly that the bill would in fact be put to a vote, and our chapters organized to be at the Capitol as fast as they could.

OFA was ready and waiting at the Capitol building Tuesday.

Marriage supporters flocked to the rotunda to watch the historic multi-hour debate. When the bill passed the House, tears of joy and cries of elation were heard in Springfield—and same-sex couples and supporters celebrated statewide.

I had the distinct honor speaking to Governor Pat Quinn directly after the bill passed. He thanked OFA-Illinois for our volunteers' fantastic field work, and he called OFA's brand of organizing "democracy in action." That night OFA-Springfield volunteers celebrated with legislators and LGBT organizers at the Governor's mansion. It was a well earned party.

OFA volunteers pose with Governor Quinn just after the historic vote.

We're making progress in Illinois, but we still have a long way to go in this fight nationwide. Join the grassroots movement fighting to bring marriage equality to every state.

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