Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris, a key architect and proponent of the state’s 2013 same-sex marriage law, has decided not to run for reelection to the General Assembly.
Harris, the highest-ranking openly gay lawmaker in Illinois history, represents Illinois’ 13th District, which includes parts of northwest Chicago including Uptown, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and West Ridge.
But after 15 years, Harris says he's ready to move on. His current term ends in 2023.
Known as a pragmatic persuader, Harris’s approach to legislating has won praise from both sides of the political aisle, including as he helped craft recent state budgets.
But it was in shepherding the passage of Illinois’ same-sex marriage law in 2013 where Harris’s pragmatic approach to legislating was on full display.
While the bill passed the House and was signed into law that November, earlier that year, Harris was subject to jeers from gay rights activists infuriated when it became clear the bill was not going to be voted on that May.
“A lot of people wanted the bill to go up on the board even if it was going to lose – and it was a strategic call,” said Harris in an interview with “Chicago Tonight”. “In my opinion, it was better to be sure that something like that went on the board to win, not to fail…. At the end of the day it was a tough decision (not to call the vote) but in something like this, where millions of peoples’ lives were going to be affected, making sure that we did it, and we did it and we won was really important. The state mobilized. People got together. We worked in every one of the 102 counties and the bill passed in a bipartisan way that November and was signed into law.”
Harris said that what changed the political dynamic on the marriage equality bill was that more and more gay Illinoisans came out “just telling their story about who they are and who they love and who their family is to their neighbors, and to their friends and co-workers and to people they worship with…. That changed people’s minds when they could understand that all anyone wanted was to love their partner, love their families and have a safe home and a happy home and contribute to the community.”
News of Harris’ announcement was met with praise from both sides of the aisle.
Deputy leader of the GOP minority in the House, Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, praised Harris on Twitter, calling him a “tremendous legislator and a great public servant.”
Demmer added that “working with him on budget and Medicaid Issues has been a true highlight of my time in the House. All of his colleagues, and the House as an institution, will miss his leadership.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker also lauded Harris’s achievements in a statement.
“From marriage equality, to health care reform to balanced budgets: you’d be hard pressed to find a recent Illinois legislative achievement that Leader Greg Harris didn’t help shape,” said Pritzker.