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Illinois Same Sex Marriage Bill Clears State Senate Committee En Route To Valentine's Day Vote

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 6, 2013 4:45PM

Photo by Melody Kramer
Senate Bill 10, the long-stalled legislation that, if passed, would make Illinois the 10th state in the nation to perform and recognize same-sex marriages, passed the Illinois Senate Executive committee late Tuesday and will head to the Senate floor for a full vote on Valentine’s Day.

The amended legislation, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D - Chicago), failed to be called for a vote during the December/January lame duck session of the Illinois State Legislature because absences of three key Senators supporting the legislation. Steans and other supporters of the bill have amended it to provide religious institutions protection from having same-sex marriage ceremonies at their facilities. The Executive Committee debated Tuesday over whether churches receiving public funding were considered “public accommodations” under the Illinois Human Rights Act, which says public accommodations shall not be subject to a test based on one’s sexual orientation. Steans told the Chicago Sun-Times that language was dropped from the bill.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said last week he wanted a vote on the bill by Valentine’s Day and believes he has the votes in Springfield to forward it to the Illinois House. (He should: Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and House.) Gov. Pat Quinn released a statement applauding the Executive Committee’s vote.

“Marriage equality is a matter of fairness and equal rights under law.

“We took the first step towards marriage equality two years ago when I signed civil unions into law. Since that day, thousands of committed couples in 92 counties across our state have entered into civil unions.

“Now is the time for the next step in providing equal rights to all people in Illinois.

“I thank the members of the Senate Executive Committee for advancing this measure today, and look forward to working to pass this bill through both houses in the days to come.”

The bill still faces staunch opposition from religious leaders and Illinois Republicans (although state GOP chair Pat Brady officially supports the legislation). In yet another sign of the futile state of the Illinois GOP, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis failed to get a quorum of state central committeemen together in an attempt to oust Brady.

During testimony Tuesday Danielle Cook of downstate Farmer City said she supports the bill because “marriage is the standard in our society.” Cook, who has a civil union license with her partner, said:

“In numerous settings and in ways big and small, we learned that a civil union is not the same as being married,” Cook said. “It’s not really recognized or understood as marriage is. After getting a civil union, for example, we decided to add Suzie to the health care plan at my work. Everyone and my employer knew that Suzie and I had been together for years. Everyone knew that we were getting a civil union. When I contacted the human-resources department, I was told that we would have to produce the civil-union certificate before Suzie could be added to my plan. That department does not ask anyone for a marriage license, but they asked us for a civil-union certificate.”

Further, she noted that forms at doctor’s offices have boxes for “single,” “married” and “divorced,” but not for civil unions.

“The message was sent in other, more personal ways as well. It even came in how individuals responded to learning that we had gotten a civil union,” she said.

A December poll showed 47 percent of Illinoisans support marriage equality.