Illinois gay marriage bill passes, heads to governor’s desk

Illinois Rep. Greg Harris
Illinois Rep. Greg Harris

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

The Illinois House, on Tuesday, made a historic move, positioning the state to be the 15th to legalize same-sex marriage.

After a 61-54 House vote, the measure was sent to the Senate for minor changes. From there, it is expected to arrive on the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn (D) Wednesday, Nov. 6.

If Quinn signs the bill tomorrow, Illinois will become one of the largest states to allow gay marriage within the next few months.

The bill was sponsored by openly gay Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago. Harris was expected to bring  it to the floor in May, but later announced he lacked support. That all changed after a massive lobbying campaign by both Republicans and Democrats.

“To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law, we must change this,” Harris said after two hours of debate. “Families have been kept apart.”

Quinn echoed Harris in a statement, citing the provision’s significance reaches beyond Illinois.

“Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history,” Quinn said. “Illinois is a place that embraces all people and today, we are an example for the nation.”

Meanwhile, opponents continued to chide the law, warning of grave consequences.

“This issue is not just about two adults and their emotional relational and financial commitment to another,” Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, said. “Redefining marriage has far-reaching implications in our society.”

Those implications, Christian and other religious groups say, center on destroying what they believe is a single, unchangeable definition of marriage. Bishop Larry Trotter of the African American Clergy Coalition affirmed his organization’s position.

“We will always believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Trotter told the Associated Press. “Yet we will still love the members of the LGBT community.”

As of this report, gay marriage is recognized in the nation’s capital and 14 states, including California, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

On the federal level, President Barack Obama (D) has shifted his view on the matter, standing behind the fight to defeat the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996. The law was found to be unconstitutional in June, which means legally married gay couples now qualify for federal provisions, including social security benefits and estate tax exemptions.

Illinois could start issuing same-sex marriage licenses as early as next June.

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