Illinois lawmakers reacted warmly to
state Representative Debra Mell's House floor announcement that she's
engaged to her girlfriend, Christine Baker.
“The reaction was great,” Mell, one
of only two openly gay Illinois state lawmakers, told gay website
“My co-workers were wonderful.”
Baker joined her fiance Wednesday on
the Illinois House floor as Mell announced their engagement. She
said the joyous moment for her was “bittersweet” because the
women's marriage would not be recognized in Illinois and took a swipe
at Governor Pat Quinn for not endorsing gay marriage. Quinn says he
supports recognizing gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
“While this is a happy day, and one
to celebrate, it is also bittersweet,” Mell told lawmakers. “Life
can be tough even on a good day, so I believe if you find that person
who you want to spend the rest of your life with, regardless if
you're gay or straight, it should be honored and celebrated.”
“I know our governor and many of you
on both sides of the aisle do not consider me equal to you and our
relationship equal to the relationship you share with your spouse. I
think we are more alike than we are different.”
The majority of the chamber warmly
greeted their announcement. Afterward the women shared a kiss.
The couple said they would be marrying
in Iowa, one of five states where gay couples can legally wed.
Legislation that would recognize gay
unions appears to have stalled out in Illinois. Neither a civil
unions bill nor one that would legalize gay marriage in the state are
expected to be debated in either chamber this election year.
Mell, a Chicago Democrat, is the
daughter of longtime ward 33 Ald. Richard Mell and the sister-in-law
of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.