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Illinois Senate Passes Marriage Equality Legislation

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 14, 2013 8:35PM

The vote tally for SB 10 on the Illinois Senate floor. (Image via blueroomstream livestream feed.)

The Illinois Senate passed SB 10, the long-stalled legislation that would make Illinois the 10th state to recognize same-sex marriages, a few moments ago. Thirty-four state senators voted in favor of the bill to 21 nays, two voted present and there were two no votes.

The bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate, Heather Steans (D - Chicago) failed to bring the bill up for a vote during the General Assembly’s lame duck session in early January. Steans and other supporters of the bill worked in the interim to amend the bill so that it provides religious institutions protection from having same-sex marriage ceremonies at their facilities. Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D - Chicago) said last month he hoped the bill would be debated and voted on by Valentine’s Day. It passed the Senate Executive Committee last week in a 9-5 vote.

The bill’s passage marks the first major vote since Democrats won veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Illinois state Legislature. Cullerton and Steans needed 30 votes to move the bill to the House and some downstate Democrats have already moved to distance themselves from the vote. State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) and state Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) filed amendments to the Illinois Constitution, stipulating that marriage in Illinois would only be recognized between a man and woman.

Much of the debate was dominated by a back-and-forth exchange between Steans and State Sen. Dale Righter (R - Mattoon), where Righter asked Steans a series of “hypothetical” questions regarding where same-sex marriages could and could not be allowed in Illinois if the bill becomes law.

SB 10 now moves to the Illinois House, where it’s uncertain if House Speaker Michael Madigan and Rep. Greg Harris (D - Chicago), the bill’s sponsor in the house, have the 60 votes necessary for passage. If the House does pass the bill, Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign it into law. Quinn said during his State of the State address last week “marriage equality is coming to Illinois.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement after the vote:

"The freedom to marry the person you love is one that should be afforded to all citizens and, for too long, has been denied to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. When two people love each other, no government entity should stand in the way of letting them express that love. It is time that our laws reflect our values and I am so proud that on this Valentine’s Day, the Illinois Senate has voted to approve gay marriage. I commend Senator Heather Steans and Representative Greg Harris for their work on this and I urge the Illinois House to take up this bill in the same bi-partisan fashion.”