Why Illinois Marriage Equality Matters to Me

By Samuel Brinton

The summer of 2010 brings back memories of long days of amazing research at the Argonne National Laboratory and long weekends in Chicago’s Boystown celebrating Pride and summer with my LGBT community. Me being “out at work” wasn’t a very big topic of conversation but I never felt directly attacked or empowered. It was an Illinois summer of adventure, academically and personally.

I understand not being open and out in the workplace. It isn’t always easy and the conversations rarely come up. Not all conversations are positive, of course, and many remind queer employees of the stigma and prejudice we are under.  My advisor for the summer knew I was gay and has been one of the most supportive people in the field on these matters. The challenge was that he could support me however much he wanted to, but the State of Illinois would never recognize me as his equal in terms of our relationships. And relationships matter.

That all changed on November 20th, 2013 when Governor Pat Quinn signed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Actl into law which provided marriage equality to the citizens of Illinois. The law will go into effect June 1st, 2014 making a grand total of 16 states and the District of Columbia to have enacted marriage equality.

This is a monumental moment for me personally. My work at Argonne National Laboratory was exciting and challenging. I would definitely consider returning in the future to continue my research. But the specter of marriage inequality had definitely crossed my mind and made me think twice before actually pursuing that option. Now that marriage equality has been enacted there I can more honestly consider moving to the great State of Illinois and starting a family.

I’m not the only student to think twice before taking a job based on the locale and my chances of finding a supportive community. There are sure to be hundreds of young LGBT nuclear professionals looking to start a family or a settle into a home. Until the other 34 states bring marriage equality forward we will be forced to consider a balance between our love of neutrons and the loves of our lives.