The state Senate last month approved legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry; it awaits a floor vote in the House, where Speaker Michael Madigan has said passing it will be "very difficult.''
A new group called the African American Clergy Coalition said it began airing 60-second commercials Tuesday on black radio stations and also plans a "street campaign'' to supplement the telephone campaign. The phone messages feature the voice of former state Sen. James Meeks, who is senior pastor of Chicago's Salem Baptist Church.
The campaign comes as supporters of gay marriage have increased pressure on lawmakers to pass the measure.
Last week, seven Democratic Illinois congressmen urged support of the bill in a letter calling for "basic legal protections to all Illinois families.'' Some business and religious leaders, including from the black community, also have voiced support for making Illinois the 10th state to allow same-sex marriage, two years after the state approved civil unions.
Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would approve gay marriage if it comes to his desk.
The pastors working to defeat gay marriage are joined in their opposition by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the Catholic Conference of Illinois and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
*Pictured above is Sen. James Meeks.