Same-sex marriage measure heats up meeting

URBANA — A proclamation recognizing the start of same-sex marriage in Illinois in June created controversy at an otherwise routine Champaign County Board meeting Thursday.

The resolution recognizing "Marriage Fairness Act Awareness Month" passed 11-9.

Voting for the resolution were Democrats Lorraine Cowart, Josh Hartke, Pattsi Petrie, James Quisenberry, Giraldo Rosales, Chris Alix, Astrid Berkson and Al Kurtz, and Republicans Jeff Kibler, Gary Maxwell and Max Mitchell.

Voting against it were Democrats Ralph Langenheim and Lloyd Carter and Republicans Aaron Esry, Stanley Harper, Stan James, John Jay, Jim McGuire, Diane Michaels and Jon Schroeder.

Robert Michael Doyle of Champaign, who brought the proclamation to the board last month, had urged members to make two amendments to the resolution. One would change its title to "Respect and Celebrate Marriage Equality Month." The other would insert a paragraph saying, "Whereas, all forms of legal marriage may be beneficial to the children being raised by loving couples, as well as the people of the state of Illinois and Champaign County."

Those changes were rejected by board members.

"Why are we going through all of this?" Harper asked. "I think we're opening a can of worms for every special interest to proclaim something."

Rosales said the proclamation "shows that people want to live in an inclusive community."

But Carter argued that "no man has the right to change God's law. This shouldn't be in politics. It's the wrong thing to put this in politics."

Carter said he had "sworn on the Bible that I wouldn't betray God. I'm not about to do that. I can't do that. That is my feeling."

He turned to Doyle and said, "I love you and I will help you with anything else but I cannot say change God's words and make it legal for you to do that."

Earlier, at a Democratic caucus meeting, Carter said that God "is not satisfied with what man is doing. Man is not being obedient."

Langenheim interjected, "This is a good example of why all of these resolutions shouldn't really be in county board meetings."

Also Thursday, Democrats in their caucus said they had heard little support for a proposal to merge the county recorder's office into the county clerk's office.

The proposed move would save an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 a year, County Administrator Deb Busey told the board earlier.

But board members, Democrats and Republicans, say they have heard from attorneys, surveyors and real-estate agents who favor retaining the recorder as a separate office, as it has been since 1932.

Quisenberry said board leaders could decide to eliminate the issue from future board agendas if there isn't sufficient support. He said he hadn't decided to do that yet.

"I'm wondering why we would spend time on this if there's not a chance that a majority of folks would support it," he said.

Hartke said he probably would vote to retain the office, "but if the community wants to have the question put before it, I'm not going to say no. But again, I haven't heard anybody in the community say we need to do this."

"There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm out there to want to move forward with this," said board chairman Al Kurtz.

But Langenheim, who said he had worked as a land surveyor, contended the change could work.

"This is a record-keeping job," he said. "All you have to do is make sure that paper gets put in there and it's filed and it gets kept. There's no reason why there has to be a special elected officer to do that."

Two Democratic board members, Michael Richards and Rachel Schwartz, both of Champaign, were absent from Thursday's meeting.

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