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Only three gay newcomers on ballot

The earth has not opened up. Lake Michigan is still in place. And nary a peep from the pulpit.

Last fall, the Illinois General Assembly approved the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed it into law. It provides same-sex couples the marriage rights that heterosexuals enjoy.

There were dire predictions that if marriage equality came to Illinois, the world as we know it would vanish. Marriage equality opponents, led by the Catholic Church and African-American pastors, fervently promised that legislators who supported same-sex marriage would be targeted for defeat in the 2014 elections.

Those threats fell short. “It shows that the world is not ending,” says Randy Hannig, director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, a leading gay rights group. “Fire and brimstone will not rain down.”

It’s here. Last month a federal judge ruled that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples in Cook County can get married right now, rather than wait until June 1, the law’s effective date.

Time to pop the champagne, but watch for potholes ahead. The Equality Illinois Political Action Committee is backing eight legislators who voted “yes” on marriage. Equality expects to spend about $100,000 in direct candidate contributions and another $25,000 in phone banking and other support in the primaries, Hannig said.