Symbolism matters. That’s why it means a lot that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state’s marriage equality law at the desk Abraham Lincoln used to write his first presidential inaugural address. About 3,000 people watched as Quinn made Illinois the 16th state to legalize marriage equality.
“This new law is an epic victory for equal rights in America,” Quinn said. “We are a model for our country. If the Land of Lincoln can achieve marriage equality, so can every other state in the nation.”
Quinn had Lincoln’s desk sent from Springfield to Chicago for the occasion. The desk is a particularly appropriate prop, considering the message that Lincoln delivered to a divided nation upon taking office. In his inaugural address, Lincoln called upon Americans to heed “the better angels of our nature.”
The desk is also a reminder that the Republican party was once the party of civil rights and not the refuge of the homophobic. There’s an additional fillip from the speculation about Lincoln’s sexuality, which is largely a parlor game relying on thin evidence.
Under the law, same-sex marriages can begin on June 1, 2014. In the words of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, “It’s time to stop planning rallies and start planning weddings.”