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Chicagoist's Top Stories Of 2013: Illinois Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 24, 2013 5:00PM

Patrick Bova and Jim Darby (a Navy Veteran) have been together for over 50 years. Now they can finally be legally wed.

Gays and lesbians wanted it. Many of the state’s most prominent politicians wanted it. A majority of people polled in Illinois wanted it and, after years of lobbying, Illinois became the 16th state to recognize same-sex marriage when Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 10 into law in a Nov. 20 ceremony at the UIC Forum.

This being Illinois, however, the road to marriage equality in the Land of Lincoln wasn’t smooth and involved months of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing once the Illinois Senate approved SB 10 in a symbolic Valentine’s Day vote. Although the bill passed by a wide margin in the Senate. Rep. Greg Harris, chief sponsor of the bill in the House, kept his personal roll call close to his vest while publicly expressing confidence the House would pass it before the end of the spring legislative session.

It wasn’t to be. With supporters of the bill and a throng of media present Harris, visibly upset, didn’t even introduce SB 10 for a vote in the House as the session ended; he lacked the necessary 60 votes for passage. Advocates of marriage equality in Illinois were disappointed and began pointing fingers at Madigan (whom the Sun-Times said didn’t make the bill a priority), some black state lawmakers who were uncomfortable with equating the push for same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue and even Harris for not getting the necessary votes for passage.

But a parliamentary maneuver by Madigan assured SB 10 would come up for a vote in the fall veto session. Suddenly Harris, his fellow sponsors and supporters had a glimmer of hope and seized it. The group Illinois Unites for Marriage produced a video of gay and lesbian couples at the Bud Billiken parade aimed at gaining support for the bill among black voters. Amendments to SB 10 aimed at protecting religious institutions were added and passed committee. Behind the scenes came reports that Madigan was offering to bring SB 10 to a vote in exchange for the sponsors of the bill to vote for his pension reform legislation, SB1.

So yeah, it was a typical Illinoisan way to pass a bill that should have been a no-brainer. Even though the law doesn’t take effect until June 1, 2014 some couples are already enjoying the benefits. Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert won a court order allowing them to marry last month after successfully arguing that Gray’s deteriorating fight with cancer means she may not live to see that June deadline. Three other couples followed suit and a federal judge ruled state officials must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples where one partner is in poor health, provided they can prove it.