WASHINGTON (AP) - Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk took to the U.S. Senate floor for the first time since suffering a stroke to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The bill would prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Seated at a desk, Kirk said it was especially important for an Illinois Republican to speak out for the legislation in the tradition of Everett Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln. Kirk hadn't taken the Senate floor since suffering a stroke in January 2012.
Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and national origin. But it doesn't stop an employer from firing or refusing to hire workers because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
All of the Senate Democratic majority and at least five Republicans are expected to vote for the bill.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Opponents of gay marriage have rallied outside the Illinois Capitol a day after thousands of supporters rallied for the legislation.
The "Defend Marriage Lobby Day" began Wednesday with a morning prayer service outside the Capitol. Attendees clustered around a large wooden cross that had been placed at the Lincoln statue. Some participants carried pictures of the Holy Family - Jesus, Mary and Joseph - and posters emphasizing their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
The event included pastors who hope to influence moderate Republicans and socially conservative members of the House Black Caucus.
Same-sex marriage legislation passed the Illinois Senate in February, but gay activists say they're a few votes short in the House.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Thousands of disappointed Illinois residents are expected at the state Capitol to rally for same-sex marriage.
Organizers say several thousand people are expected to take part in the "March on Springfield" -a grassroots effort to urge the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois.
The Illinois Senate approved the measure last February, but the measure has stalled in the House. Speaker Michael Madigan has said about a dozen votes are still needed.
The event will begin with a noon concert followed by a rally at 1 p.m. and a 2:30 p.m. March. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn are participating in the event. The governor says he will sign legislation if passed by the General Assembly.
Currently 13 states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge in Los Angeles ruled Thursday that a lesbian Army veteran and her spouse should be entitled to disability benefits given the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall said that a federal code defining a spouse as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional "under rational basis scrutiny" since the high court's decision allowing legally married gay couples the right to health care benefits.
"The court finds that the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from veterans' benefits is not rationally related to the goal of gender equality," in the code, Marshall wrote in her four-page ruling.
The Department of Veterans Affairs denied an application from veteran Tracey Cooper-Harris and her spouse seeking additional money and benefits that married veterans are entitled to receive. Cooper-Harris suffers from multiple sclerosis and receives disability benefits.
She and Maggie Cooper-Harris got married in California during the brief period in 2008 when same-sex unions were legal in the state. The plaintiffs' attorneys had said previously the couple would receive about $150 more a month in disability payments, and Maggie Cooper-Harris would be eligible for about $1,200 a month in survivor's benefits if her wife died.
The Justice Department had asked for Cooper-Harris' case to be tossed out on the grounds that veterans' claims can only be heard by an administrative Board of Veterans' Appeals. But Marshall said the case could move forward.
The law on VA benefits specifically defines spouse and surviving spouse as someone of the opposite sex, which has prevented same-sex married couples from accessing such benefits as enhanced disability or pension payments.
In a letter to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. earlier this month, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said no court had deemed the provision unconstitutional, nor has Congress taken up a bill to change the definition of spouse. He noted, however, that if spousal definitions were determined to be unconstitutional, the agency would be prepared to update its policies.
The Defense Department has said that same-sex spouses of military members will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses starting Sept. 3.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Same-sex spouses of military members could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of August. That's according to a Pentagon proposal under consideration.
But the agency may reverse earlier plans to provide benefits to gay partners who are not married. According to a draft Defense Department memo, the department instead may provide up to 10 days of leave to military personnel in same-sex relationships so they can travel to states where they can marry legally.
While no final decisions have been made, the memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to top defense leaders would reverse the earlier plan that would allow same-sex partners of military members to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A U.S. Supreme Court decision about federal benefits for gay couples has prompted the Missouri Supreme Court to take a second look at a pending case.
The state's high court heard arguments in February on a challenge to a Missouri law that denied survivor benefits to the same-sex partner of a Highway Patrol officer who died in the line of duty.
In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that that barred legally married same-sex couples from receiving benefits from the federal government.
The Missouri Supreme Court has asked attorneys involved in the Highway Patrol officer's case to submit additional written arguments in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. That could further delay a decision in the Missouri case.
CHICAGO (AP) - Gay marriage supporters are launching a $2 million statewide campaign to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Illinois Unites for Marriage is a coalition representing gay rights, civil rights and political groups.
In a statement Tuesday, the group says it will place 15 field organizers throughout the state to engage supporters. They plan to target legislators who oppose a measure to lift Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage.
The Illinois Senate passed the bill in February. It wasn't called for a vote in the House because the bill's sponsor said it didn't have the votes to pass.
Jim Bennett is chairman of the coalition. He says the next few months are critical because lawmakers could take up the bill in the fall.
Opponents say marriage should be between a man and woman.
By DAVID CRARY
NEW YORK (AP) - However the Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage, the issue seems certain to divide Americans and the states for years to come.
After considering two cases involving gay couples' rights this week, the justices left open multiple options for rulings expected in June. But they signaled there was no prospect of imposing a 50-state solution at this stage.
With nine states allowing same-sex marriages and other states banning them, that means a longer spell with a patchwork marriage-rights map - and no early end to bruising battles in the courts, legislatures and at the ballot box.
Opponents of same-sex marriage seem resigned to a divided nation where the debate will continue to splinter families, communities, churches.
Supporters of same-sex marriage believe a nationwide victory is inevitable, though perhaps not imminent.