(CNSNews.com) - Advocates of traditional marriage Monday delivered more than 300,000 signatures to the Illinois Board of Elections. They are petitioning for a ballot referendum that would ask voters in the state to give the General Assembly the authority to use the Illinois Constitution to define marriage.
Commissioners from the State Board of Elections must find that at least 283,111 of the more than 300,000 submitted signatures are valid for the referendum to be included on the November ballot.
If the petitions are accepted, Illinois voters will be able to support or oppose encouraging the General Assembly to declare that "marriage between a man and woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State," according to Protect Marriage Illinois, the group that organized the petition drive.
But the campaign to define marriage in Illinois is far from over. Homosexual advocacy groups are expected to challenge the legitimacy of the petition signatures and even if the referendum is passed in November, state legislators will still have to approve a constitutional amendment to define marriage.
Bob Schwartz, a spokesman for the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network, told Cybercast News Service that he expects a challenge of the signatures will be successful.
"Our friends in Massachusetts uncovered a lot of fraudulent means that were employed there to collect signatures," Schwartz said, referring to the allegedly questionable methods by which advocates of traditional marriage collected petitions to try to change the Massachusetts Constitution.
Schwartz claimed that some fraudulent activity may have already taken place in Illinois, but added that homosexual marriage advocates in the state will "be looking mainly at the validity of the signatures in terms of whether the people are registered voters and whether they live at the addresses that the petition says they live at."
He said the Gay Liberation Network has been in contact with the organizers of KnowThyNeighbor.org, a website that lists the names and personal information of Massachusetts residents who signed a petition supporting the traditional definition of marriage. "We haven't made any determination yet as to whether we will do that here," Schwartz said. "There are a number of issues concerning that kind of campaign that we need to address."
Schwartz said homosexual couples in Illinois currently have "very limited rights" associated with civil contracts. "It's nothing like the hundreds of rights and responsibilities that go with the marriage contract," he said, labeling the petition drive by conservatives, "an effort to deny equal access to the civil contract of marriage."
Representatives for Protect Marriage Illinois did not return calls requesting comment for this article. But PMI project manager David Smith declared in a press release that "it's a shame that we've had to resort to an Advisory Referendum to tell our legislators specifically to make protecting marriage a top priority."
"Nevertheless," Smith said, "it is humbling to see how many people and churches have invested their time, energy and resources to give us this unprecedented grassroots victory."
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