Illinois Senate Passes Marriage Bill
Illinois moved closer Thursday to becoming the 10th state in the nation where same-sex couples can legally wed, after the Senate voted to lift a ban on gay marriage.
Senators voted 34-21 to approve the measure, sending it on to the state House where Democrats also hold a majority. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he will sign the bill if the House approves it.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, called it "a vote for the history books."
"We have the opportunity today to welcome all families in Illinois as equally valued," she said.
Before approving the measure, the Senate attached an amendment Thursday that explicitly states no church or other religious organization will be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages. It also says churches cannot be sued if they don’t allow their parishes to be used for same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Some Republicans raised concerns that the bill would force religious organizations to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their fellowship halls, parish centers or even in their sanctuaries. Steans said even before the amendment was added that the bill made clear churches won’t be forced to perform same-sex marriages.
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, was the only Republican to vote yes. He said he worked with Steans on the amendment before pledging his support.
"I think it was the right thing to do," Barickman said. "It’s a vote that I understand some have varying opinions on, but I feel that I voted in the correct way."
House Passage Likely
The Valentine’s Day vote marked the first time gay marriage has passed on the floor of either chamber of the Legislature. Steans and other supporters tried to pass it during the January lame duck session. But after getting approval from a Senate committee, Steans opted not to call for floor action, saying it didn’t have enough votes.