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Same-sex marriage is something couple ‘would like to have’

Michael (left) Sam Johnson-Maurello their home Beach Park. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Michael (left) and Sam Johnson-Maurello at their home in Beach Park. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 12, 2013 3:00AM

They’ve been together 14 years and they’re ready to make it official, or at least more official than it already is, the civil union of two men who say that, if the state passes a new same-sex marriage law, they will throw a backyard wedding in their Beach Park subdivision.

Sam and Mike Johnson-Maurello, both 46, entered into a civil union as soon as the law allowed in June 2011. In 2012, they went to court to meld their last names.

“We wanted to do that because a lot of people don’t know what a civil union is,” said Sam Johnson-Maurello. “To call someone your civil union partner is kind of wordy. People know exactly what you mean when you say my husband or ‘Mike and I are married.’ Marriage means the same thing to everyone. It’s the common language we have and it’s something we would like to have.”

But passage of legislation allowing gay marriage is far from assured. An attempt by the senate in the lame duck session fell short by two votes. While bills were introduced in both houses on Wednesday, the first day of the new General Assembly, they won’t be taken up until February, and conservative and religious groups are applying political pressure to kill them.

Gay rights groups are fighting back.

“There will not be one day of the new legislature when we will not be hammering home the message that all couples in lifelong, committed relationships deserve the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage for themselves and their families,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, in a recent statement,

While Johnson-Maurello said he “can’t see any reasonable argument against” such a measure and Cherkasov insists “There is not a lot to debate,” Rev. Arthur Gass, a Waukegan pastor, called same-sex unions “a moral issue.”

“We may lose the battle but not the war, because the war is God’s,” said Gass. “People who go down that road will have to answer to him. We can voice our objections as Americans, but God will have the last word.”

“Mike and I both respect that people have different views,” Johnson-Maurello said. “But it’s disappointing to me personally that there is so much anger or animosity toward it (legislation). We just want something we’ve wanted all our lives that doesn’t hurt anyone else and that, as far as I can see, only helps build stability and recognizes loving relationships.”

For now, the Beach Park couple must rely on the limited legal protections of a civil union. Johnson-Maurello, who works in behavioral health for the Lake County Health Department and his partner, who works for the Art Institute of Chicago, point to hundreds of ministers who support the right of human beings to marry regardless of gender.

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, said he expects passage of the bill by a narrow margin.

”It’s long overdue,” Link said. “I believe what we’re doing here is the civil right of this decade.”

“I’m glad to see our legislators still have energy on it and that they’re trying again so soon,” said Johnson-Maurello. “We’re still hopeful it will pass at some point. Sooner is better of course. But we’re not awaiting around to live our lives.”

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