The Democratic-led Senate delivered a Valentine’s Day victory to gay and lesbian couples today, passing legislation for the first time that would allow same-sex marriage in Illinois.
The gay marriage measure now goes to the House, where the fight is expected to be tougher. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
The 34-21-2 Senate vote represents a turnaround of sorts after advocates unsuccessfully sought to push a gay marriage bill through last month’s lame-duck legislative session. Supporters vowed to try again quickly with a new General Assembly that featured even more Democratic seats in both chambers.
Under the measure, marriage officially would be changed in state law from an act between a man and a woman to two people. The legislation explicitly says nothing in the proposed law would force a religious denomination or minster to “solemnize any marriage.” People in civil unions would be able to convert them to gay marriages within a year of a same-sex marriage law going on the books in Illinois.
While advocates have brought forth a lengthy line-up of religious leaders who have endorsed same-sex marriage, Catholics and other church groups have provided fierce opposition. They have argued same-sex marriage goes against the basic tenets of the Bible, which call for marriage to be only between a man and woman. Two years ago, Illinois legalized civil unions for straight and gay couples.
Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored the measure, argued the legislation is needed because it is time for Illinois to eliminate the "second-class status" of gay and lesbian couples.
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