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Lyons: Wait, so this is where we do need government?

Pretty sure my marriage institution is intact. How about yours? Any cracks in the foundation?

Seemed fine this morning, although I’d better clean the garage before winter comes to keep it that way. Also pretty sure my wife would frown if I referred to our marriage as an “institution,” even if I play the role of asylum resident to some acclaim.

Based on our area legislators’ votes, it’s a great week for some and a tough one for others. Jack Franks was the only area legislator to vote for the same-sex marriage bill. Still a close vote, with most Republicans voting against approving it, making Illinois the 15th state to do so. All that’s left is the glitter, and Gov. Pat Quinn will sign it this month.

It was a historic vote whether you loved it, hated it or remained indifferent. I hope local legislators voted their conscience and not out of fear of political retribution. I’m not certain that all voted with the courage of conviction, which is obviously not required for public office.

I will take state Rep. Barb Wheeler at her word and applaud her for at least stating her opposition. “I’m Catholic, and the message hasn’t been more clear to me from my Catholic Church, my bishop and my priest that this is something that is not going to be good for our communities,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler sums it up well and probably speaks for the majority of the opposition. I’m Catholic, too, but I respectfully disagree. Mostly because the state of Illinois is not the Catholic Church.

While I respect Wheeler and some others for voting their consciences, I seek no religious instruction from the Illinois Legislature any more than I would seek their financial advice.

And what I definitely don’t need from any politician is marriage advice, which is really at the heart of Tuesday’s vote. From a legal standpoint, which is what legislators are there to consider, consenting adults should be alllowed to marry. It’s about equality, whether you’re morally opposed or not.

And that’s what confuses me about the conservative position on gay marriage, which flies in the face of everything else most conservatives say. Conservatives want government as far from their lives as possible – it’s too big, too restrictive and too intrusive.

So what’s more intrusive than standing between two people on their wedding day?

That’s what the real conservative position should be. But conservative means something else today, and for some odd reason, instead of focusing on government, it’s taken on this air of puritanical fascism that turns most people off.

If they want to make noise about what religion dictates, why isn’t it about feeding the poor, loving one another, humility or forgiveness? A sixth-grader in Sunday school knows there’s plenty in the Gospels about those matters although nothing direct on gay marriage.

Take a look at the Illinois Republicans who supported gay marriage – Mark Kirk, Judy Baar Topinka, Dan Rutherford. What do they all have in common? They’re the only Illinois Republicans holding statewide office.

Do you think cowering in fear over social issues that some find non-negotiable was at the forefront of that success? Americans don’t go backward on social issues like gay marriage. The assumed negative impact of allowing about 2 percent of the population who couldn’t get married to do so was grossly overstated.

Conservatives have plenty of important messages about government that both Illinoisans and Americans should hear. A stance against same-sex marriage wasn’t one of them. And it’s getting harder and harder for the public to hear the others over matters that should have little to do with government.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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