Ending a months-long battle between traditional and liberal values in a Democrat-controlled state, lawmakers in Illinois on Tuesday voted in favor of granting marriage licenses to homosexual couples. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has promised to sign the measure into law.
The Illinois Senate had originally passed the same-sex marriage bill in February, but in subsequent months proponents didn’t have the support needed to pass it through the House. Following a behind-the-scenes push for votes by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan (who called it the “art of persuasion”), House legislators voted 61-54 in favor—one more vote than needed to pass the bill. Three House Republicans provided their votes to put the measure over the top, including Rep. Tom Cross, the former House Republican leader, who had not previously said whether he would support the bill. After the House vote, the Senate quickly approved the final version on Tuesday and sent the bill to the governor’s desk.
Following the vote, Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and President Barack Obama praised the legislature in statements on Tuesday.
“As president, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” said Obama, who previously served in the Illinois Senate.
Once Quinn signs the measure, Illinois will become the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex marriage. It has allowed same-sex civil unions since 2011, bestowing some legal privileges on homosexual couples. Under the new law, couples could begin obtaining marriage licenses in Illinois by June 2014.
As usual for supporters of same-sex marriage, proponents of the Illinois bill compared their cause to that of civil rights.
“What I decided to do was the right thing and stand for what is right,” said Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, a Democrat. “I feel like Dr. King, fighting against inequality. I understand a lot of pastors disagree.”
Indeed, a group called the African American Clergy Coalition strongly opposed the bill. During the summer, the group spearheaded a robocall campaign urging Illinois voters to ask their legislators to vote in support of traditional marriage. The robocall featured the voice of James Meeks, a former Illinois senator and a black Baptist pastor.
“We will always believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Bishop Larry Trotter, a member of the coalition. “Yet we will still love the members of the LGBT community.”
Rep. Mary Flowers of Chicago, a Democrat who read from the Bible on the House floor in support of traditional marriage, recoiled against the comparison to civil rights: “I really did not appreciate race being injected into this conversation. When I was discriminated against, it is not because of who I love, but because of the color of my skin.”
“Homosexuality has nothing to do with race,” she added, according to the Illinois Family Institute.