Renowned civil rights leader, Julian Bond, has joined the chorus urging the passage of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, known as SB10.
In an open letter sent to supporters of SB10 by the Illinois Unites for Marriage coalition on Friday, Bond says he believes that, "marriage strengthens families and communities. I believe that marriage provides the protection and security that every loving couples needs and deserves. I believe that marriage is a universal right, guaranteed equal protection under the law."
The letter comes one day after a prominent group of African-American faith leaders urged lawmakers to support the legislation during a press conference. Their point was that the measure was one of equal protection under the law, and not a religious issue.
In addition to SB10 extending the freedom to marry to all, it also protects churches by ensuring that no clergy or faith organization will be forced to recognize marriages for same-sex couples if it violates their beliefs.
Regarding his own 20 year marriage, Bond writes, "My gay and lesbian brothers and sisters simply want the freedom to make that same commitment. And they deserve the same protection that my wife and I have. It’s just that simple."
Bond was a leader in the American civil rights movement, helping to establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law center. He's served a combined twenty years in the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate. From 1998 to 2010, he was the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Bond currently serves as the Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP National Board of Directors.
"I’ve spent my life as a civil rights activist, working to make our society more just and fair for all of us," he writes. "It is that commitment to equality that has led me to support marriage for all committed couples."
"Julian Bond's endorsement of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act sends a strong statement to Illinois House members that the desire of couples to express their lifelong love and raise their families through the bonds of marriage knows no boundaries," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, which is a founding organization of the Illinois Unites for Marriage Coalition in a press release.
"We urge the Illinois House to act promptly and pass the bill when it returns from its spring break next week."