www.redeyechicago.com/news/chi-lt-gov-tv-star-support-real-families-formed-by-gay-marriage-20130102,0,2986472.story

redeyechicago.com

Lt. Gov., TV star support 'real families' formed by gay marriage

By Bridget Doyle

Tribune reporter

6:55 PM CST, January 2, 2013

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Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a star of ABC’s “Modern Family,” joined Lt. Governor Sheila Simon this morning in Chicago to advocate for gay marriage in Illinois.

Simon, Ferguson and other supporters are heading to Springfield Thursday for “Bow Tie Lobby Day,” where they’ll encourage legislatures to wear bow ties in support of the marriage equality bill that could come before the senate this week.

Ferguson said his role as part of a gay couple on the popular television show has helped him use “wit and humor” to tackle a serious issue. The nation’s forward movement on marriage equality has been encouraging, he said, and he wants to continue the call to action in Illinois.

His fiancé Justin Mikita accompanied him to the press event.

“I’m looking forward to raising a family with Justin and having our kids grow up in an equal America. I had a hard time coming out and certainly had struggles with my parents. … If the 12-year-old me had been able to turn on the TV and see a sitting president say he supports marriage equality, it would have made all the difference for me and certainly given me a lot of hope,” Ferguson said.

Modern Family’s popularity and presence in American homes has also helped the issue of marriage equality forward, Ferguson said.

“I think it’s a bit like a Trojan horse. A lot of people who were not comfortable with marriage equality … turn on the television and see a show that has a lot of different families in it — and one of those families just happens to be gay. They’re realizing they have a great time watching the show, then they’re watching a gay couple that’s having a lot of the same problems and issues they have. They realize ‘Oh they’re not so different from me.’ And at that point, we’re in their living rooms,” he said.

Simon sought to counter the argument put forth in a letter from Cardinal Francis George and his bishops on Tuesday that same-sex marriage laws create a “legal fiction.”

"The state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible," George and the bishops wrote in a letter to priests.

Simon argued that adoption is similarly a “legal fiction” that helps citizens form a family unit — and one that she also supports.

“Families are not a constant thing and the law of how we build our families has changed greatly over time. … There are a lot of ways we put together families that don’t involve reproduction,” Simon said.

Ferguson and Simon were joined by openly gay state representatives Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Rep. Deb Mell, and Mell’s wife Christin Baker.

Cassidy said she hopes for a roll call in the senate tomorrow.

“I do this not just as a legislator but a mom of three kids,” Cassidy said. “I want the world to be better for them. I want them to know our family is like any other in this state. And they want that too.”

Ferguson and Mikita recently launched “Tie The Knot,” a foundation that sells bow ties with profits going to charitable organizations that support gay marriage. The two planned to head to Naperville this afternoon to visit The Tie Bar, an online business based in the west suburb that sells their ties.

Simon called on Illinois residents and their extended families to reach out to their legislators in support of gay marriage.

“I think the people who really make the difference are the moms and dads who take their kids to soccer practice, who go to church on Sunday, who are working with us in our offices, who are real families in the state of Illinois and deserve real recognition for that status,” Simon said.

bdoyle@tribune.com