Saturday, March 23, 2013

Standing on the Side of Love for Marriage Equality in McHenry County

Lori Macarus and family, Rev. Sean Dennison, Toni Palmer.

If I was that kind of guy, I might say that the Good Lord smiled on our endeavors early Friday evening in McHenry as more than 50 joyous souls gathered on a street corner to vigil for marriage equality in Illinois.  But I am not, so I won’t.
I will simply point out that it was a glorious, sun lit gathering and while temperatures hovered just around freezing everyone was comfortable and warmed not only by the sun, but by each other and the overwhelmingly positive response we got from passing motorists.
Sandy Ekert, Irene Raven, Rev. Dan Larsen, Cary MacDonald

On a corner diagonally across from us where Route 31(Front Street) meets and joins Route 120 (Elm Street) in the shadows a handful of counter protestors gathered carrying signs that said, if you could read them,  “One Man, One Woman, Baby”, “Honk if You Think Marriage Should be Between Men and Women Only,” and what were probably scrawled Bible quotations.  Their ranks swelled from 4 all the way to 9 or 10.  They seemed, at a distance to be somewhat astonished and confused to see that the overwhelming number of honks, waves, and cheers were of those of us on the sunny side of the street.
Times have changed in McHenry County and in the nation.

Members of Tree of Life—A Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry County and PFLAG were joined by folks from the Democratic Party of McHenry County including new County Board Member Nick Chirikos, and several new folks who heard about the vigil on facebook or in the Northwest Herald.  Others passed by, parked their cars and joined us.
Among the latter I was cheered to notice a young guy wearing and IWW cap.  When I greeted him as Fellow Worker he was a tad surprised.  It turns out that Ben Clifford is a Chicago Branch member of the Industrial Workers of the World and a member of a band based in the county.  He and his mates were headed to a rehearsal when they stopped by to join us.
Other folks said that this was the first time they had ever done anything like that and indicated they wanted to check out and keep in contact with Tree of Life and PFLAG.
McHenry has a reputation in the county as blue collar.  Many people, clinging to old stereotypes, think that translates into Archie Bunkerism and crotchety social conservatism.  Just plain not true as the great response from drivers indicated. Several drivers of service trucks and big rigs tooted their horns and pumped fists out the window. 
Marriage equality touches all families now.  Support for legislation now semi-stalled in the Illinois House is growing almost faster than pollsters can track.  A solid majority now favors full marriage equality and the last poll I saw only recorded about 34% strongly opposed.  But they are a noisy minority and marshaled to action by almost frantic appeals from the Catholic Church and a shrinking number of Evangelical pulpits.
The city of McHenry and its surrounding area are the most intensely Catholic parts of the county.  But like Catholics nationally, local church members largely reject or ignore the Church’s absolutist position.
With this success under our belt and with the marriage equality bill likely not to be called in the House in the near future, we will take this show on the road to other McHenry County communities.  Look for an announcement of a vigil in Crystal Lake in about three weeks.
In the meantime, keep contacting your legislators.  Be relentless.  In McHenry County we are targeting Democratic Representative Jack Franks who has been dodging a commitment for or against the bill.  Contact his Woodstock office at 1193 S. Eastwood Drive, 60098 or phone 815 334-0063.

Early in the vigil--about 30 of the eventual 50+ participants.

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