Community members, activists and politicians gathered at Sidetrack Video Bar to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2013 March on Springfield for Marriage Equality Oct. 22. Celebrants also marked the passage of the marriage-equality bill (SB10), which happened soon after the March, and Illinois' first legal marriages, which came in the weeks and months after that.
The Sidetrack event was co-sponsored by Lambda Legal, Equality Illinois and Human Rights Campaign, and featured memorabilia, a slide show, a video documenting the March and an array of speakers, most of whom were integral participants in the push for marriage-equality.
Among those who spoke were former Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris; state Rep. Kelly Cassidy; ACLU Director of Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Khadine Bennett; Lambda Legal Deputy Legal Director Camilla Taylor; John Kohlhepp, who headed Illinois Unites for Marriage, an ad hoc coalition of activists that allied around marriage-equality; activist and former HRC board member Justin Koziatek; and Equality Illinois Deputy Director Mony Ruiz-Velasco.
Executive Director of Pride Action Tank and AIDS Foundation of Chicago Vice President of Special Projects and Innovation Kim Hunt and publisher, author, Windy City Times co-founder and owner Tracy Baim co-hosted the Sidetrack event. Baim spearheaded the 2013 March, and Hunt was among 12 co-chairs of the historic event, which saw 5,000 LGBTQ+ people and allies march on the state capitol.
After a screening of a short video of speakers at the March, speakers talked about the strategy in 2013. Baim spoke about the logistics of pulling together the March after the bill failed to pass earlier in the year. Harris and Cassidy talked about the inside game to get the votes to pass the bill. Former state Sen. Heather Steans, the bill's primary sponsor in the Senate, was unable to attend.
In her speech at Sidetrack, Cassidy implored the packed room to get further involved LGBTQ+ rights in the months ahead. She warned, "There are only two of us holding it down now" in Springfield as openly LGBTQ+ legislators, with the other being state Sen. Mike Simmons.
Kohlhepp recounted how he and his team at Illinois Unites coordinated a massive statewide effort that included a door-to-door campaign, mailing of letters, phone banking and much more.
Bennett and Taylor addressed the legal strategy of parallel efforts to get marriage equality through the Illinois courts. The bill's victory meant they could then go to the courts and ask for emergency marriages to take place when one or both of the partners was ill. Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert thus became the first legal married couple in the state; Gray died March 18, 2014. Gray had spoken at the March on Springfield, and the crowd at Sidetrack teared up as her speech was shown.
Ruiz-Velasco and Koziatek spoke on the importance of a continued fight for civil rights in Illinois, citing, among others, issues such as immigration, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, income inequality and violence against trans women. Baim and Hunt likewise made the point that the fight did not end with the passage of SB10.