CHICAGO – Mayor Richard Daley said he would have "no problem" with Cook County issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in Chicago, the nation's third largest city.
Entering a national debate over gay marriage, Daley urged sympathy for same-sex couples (search) because "they love each other just as much as anyone else."
Daley also dismissed a suggestion Wednesday that marriage between gay couples would undermine the institution.
"Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don't tell me about marriage," he said. "Don't blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community."
Daley said only the county clerk's office can issue marriage licenses, and he stopped short of saying he would follow San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (search) by approving marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
County Clerk David Orr said he was "game to looking at options," but only if a consensus could be built between Daley, city and county government and advocacy groups.
"I'm fed up with people being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation," Orr said. "[But] whatever you do when it comes to challenging laws, you want it to be effective and not knee-jerk."
Last fall the county board authorized Orr to issue certificates of domestic partnership that carry no legal rights.
Rick Garcia, political director for the gay rights group Equality Illinois (search), welcomed Daley's comments, saying they represent "another step in the right direction."
At least 38 states and the federal government have approved laws or amendments barring the recognition of gay marriage. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian couples from more than 20 states and Europe have flocked to San Francisco since city officials decided to begin marrying same-sex couples last week.
Massachusetts' highest court also recently ruled that its state constitution allows gay marriages.