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Ill. State Rep. Mell publicly announces engagement to lesbian partner

Chicago, IL — Today Illinois State Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) announced on the Illinois House floor that she plans to marry her girlfriend of six years, Christin Baker. Following the announcement, Mell told, "The reaction was great. My co-workers were wonderful."

State Rep. Deb Mell at this year's Equality Illinois Gala ::
State Rep. Deb Mell at this year's Equality Illinois Gala 
credit ::
"While this is a happy day, and one to celebrate, it is also bittersweet," Mell said in her address to the House today. "Life can be tough even on a good day, so I believe if you find that person who you want to spend the rest of your life with, regardless if you're gay or straight it should be honored and celebrated."

When asked about what the most daunting obstacle in planning the wedding would be, she responded, "the biggest challenge is going to be timing."

Mell announced her engagement Tuesday night on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."

"I want to talk about how we have built this life together," Mell said on WTTW and although they plan to marry in Iowa, she wants to get married in Illinois. "Just being with her has made me a better person. I want to spend the rest of my life with her and I want to get married in Illinois."

"I mean, we could go to Iowa, and Iowa's great. I went to school in Iowa," Mell said, "but you know what? It's not the state where I represent. it's not the state where I grew up in. It's not the state I love."

Mell asked Baker to marry her during dinner at the Signature Room in the John Hancock Center on April 10th. She had the engagement ring on the creme brulee.

"When I am able to introduce Deb as my fiancee or my wife, there's a weight there that I think people in society recognize, a level of commitment that they understand," Baker said on WTTW. "I think if I call her my partner or my girlfriend, it's taken a little bit lightly."

Baker is an Arts and Humanities Specialist with the YMCA. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a BFA in mass communications and English lit in 1997. She also worked briefly as a volunteer coordinator for the Giannoulias for State Treasurer campaign in 2006.

Mell and Baker would like to have a fall wedding. However, they won't be getting married this fall because Mell plans to support her sister, Patti Blagojevich, as former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich goes on trial.

Mell's father is longtime 33rd ward Ald. Richard Mell.

Today is the one year anniversary of the day Iowa began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples following the state's supreme court legalization of same sex marriage. Illinois does not afford equal marriage rights. 

"We're just asking for the same rights as everyone else," said Chicago resident Jess Elfring, who celebrated a commitment ceremony with her partner Rebecca Roberts last fall. "This might be the spark that lights something."

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in five states, including Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Gay marriage is also legal in the District of Columbia.
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