On a day celebrating love, members of the Illinois state Senate celebrated a cheap imitation of it, advancing to the House by a 34-21 vote a measure to would allow same-sex couples to wed.
Though in the House it will be a tougher sell, supporters expressed confidence that within two weeks President Barack Obama’s home state could join nine others in redefining marriage. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has promised to sign the bill into law if it makes it through the House.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, deemed it “a vote for the history books,” saying the measure’s strong showing in the Senate—it needed 30 votes to pass—and the support of one Republican gave her hope for the future.
Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said "the prospects are very good" in the House, though he declined to discuss the roll call so far or say when a hearing will be held. But other supporters said it could be within the next two weeks.
A vote for the history books, no doubt—but supporters of traditional marriage worry it would simply be a marker for future generations to look back on when asking, “what went wrong with our country? How did things get to this point?”
One of their top concerns is the measure’s potential to force religious organizations to allow same-sex “marriage” ceremonies in their fellowship halls, parish centers, or even in their sanctuaries.
Steans has said that's not the case. But before approving the measure Thursday, the Senate attached an amendment that says no church or other religious organization may be sued if they don't allow their parishes to be used for same-sex “marriage” ceremonies. The amendment was an effort to further reassure Republicans in hopes of picking up at least some bipartisan support.
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, was the only Republican to vote yes. He said he intended to vote no until the amendment, which he worked on with Steans.
In addition to religious freedom concerns, opponents worry the bill would change what future generations are taught in schools. Others agreed it would diminish the sanctity of marriage.
"People have a right to live as they choose," said Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon. "They don't have a right to redefine marriage for all of us."