June is national pride month. For the LGBT community, it’s a time to celebrate all they have accomplished in their fight toward equality and a reminder of how much is left to go.
Almost 44 years to the day of the riots at Stonewall Inn, which spurred the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that barred same sex marriages from federal recognition, and the hundreds of benefits that go along with it.
“I think that that’s huge. I think that saying it’s unconstitutional to define marriage in a certain and very specific way is a giant gain for the community,” said Carin Silkaitis who has a civil union.
But its impact won’t be felt in Illinois. Late last month, the Illinois House failed to bring the same sex marriage bill to the floor for a vote, leaving the LGBT community here waiting for their chance.
“I think it was a pretty major disappointment the day the legislature decided not to vote,” says Reverend Timoth Slyvia. “But I haven’t seen it really effect people’s intent to keep that work going. And I think in the back of our minds that one day that equality will be there.”
Silkaitis and Sylvia represent a diverse population who deal first hand with inequality.
Sylvia is the Pastor of Hope United Church of Christ in Naperville and has been in a same sex relationship for almost 10 years. After his salary at the church was cut he found himself in need of assistance and applied for food stamps.
“With this assistance program when I applied for it initially I was unable to claim him as a part of my family,” said Slyvia. “So the process through the state of Illinois we are seen as two individuals sharing a home.
Silkaitis is the head of the theatre department at North Central College. She and her partner have a civil union, but it is only recognized in the state of Illinois.
“We just talked about this the other night because we are taking a road trip this weekend. So if we were in a different state, that state will not recognize our civil union, and if something were to happen to one of us in this other state, we’re technically not related at all,” says Silkaitis.
For the people I spoke with acceptance to be who they are is their number one priority.
“I think again it’s sort of a great step forward that if communities are recognizing pride month, that saying there’s a recognition there is a group of people within our culture who we need to lift up and celebrate, if we could not celebrate people on special days, it would be so wonderful if we could just live life,” says Sylvia.
“I don’t think that marriage equality is the end-all-be-all thing. I think that just equality is the end-all-be-all thing, and that sexuality shouldn’t even come into question,” says Silkaitis.
Supporters are hoping Illinois legislators bring up the same sex marriage bill for a vote when they return to Springfield in the fall.
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