Illinois has become the latest state to enact same-sex marriage after a long and hard fight that looked precarious right until the final House vote.
The Illinois House of Representatives voted 61-54 on Tuesday, November 6 to pass a marriage equality bill, a day earlier than action had been expected.
This concluded months of strained debate over the bill and a series of defeats earlier in the year when the legislation failed to gain traction in January’s lame duck session and then later when Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, the billís primary sponsor, was forced to pull the legislation during May’s Spring session after it became clear that Democratic lawmakers didn’t yet have the support needed for the legislation to pass a full House vote.
Senate Bill 10, known as the†Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, became a rallying point for gay marriage opponents, particularly the National Organization for Marriage, who saw these defeats as a chance to prove that even in liberal states they could still defeat same-sex marriage. The speed with which the bill was called to a vote on Monday seems to have caught opponents off guard, however.
As noted above, the bill wasn’t expected to get a vote until Wednesday, but on Monday House Speaker Michael Madigan’s staffers began conducting a roll call by phone to gauge support among the House’s 71 Democratic lawmakers, with Speaker Madigan himself calling Democratic legislators personally to urge them to support the bill.
By the time the bill reached the floor, not every Democrat supported the move, one chief dissenter being Chicago Rep. Mary Flowers who called the otherwise largely respectful debate a “joke,” but with a few alterations it soon became clear the votes were there to pass the legislation.
On the subject of amendments, the bill’s language was changed to make explicitly clear that private clubs will still be able to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, a provision mostly already covered by the Illinois Human Rights Act but once again something that the more conservative members of the legislature insisted on as a bargaining chip for their support.
Another amendment changed the date that the legislation will go into effect, setting it back from a virtually immediate start to beginning in June of 2014. This was a procedural move so that the bill needed only 60 votes to pass instead of 71 in this veto session.
As a result of the amendments being added, the state’s Senate was forced to once again vote on the bill — having already voted to pass the legislation 34-21 on Feb. 14. The legislation passed Tuesday’s Senate vote by 32-21, sending the legislation to Gov. Pat Quinn (D) who has advocated for the bill and has vowed to sign it when it reaches his desk. In fact, Governor Quinn made marriage equality a top legislative priority for this legislative session and even included it in his 2013 State of the State address.
Said the Governor in a statement issued shortly after the vote:
“Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history,” Governor Quinn said. “I thank Representative Greg Harris and Senator Heather Steans, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton, the dedicated advocates who have worked day and night to get this bill to my desk, and members of the General Assembly who took a stand for equal rights. Illinois is a place that embraces all people and today, we are an example for the nation.”
The legislation also prompted President Barack Obama, a former US Senator for the state of Illinois, to issue a statement praising the victory, saying:
“Tonight, I applaud the men and women of the Illinois General Assembly, a body in which I was proud to serve, for voting to legalize marriage equality in my home state. As president, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” he said. “So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours — and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.”
As noted above, the law will take effect on June 1 and means Illinois is likely to be the fifteenth state (plus D.C.) to enact marriage equality — that’s if Hawaii doesn’t manage to enact its own law first.
Care2 Success! Thank you to the nearly 5,300 Care2 members who signed a petition in support of Illinois’ marriage equality efforts. You have helped ensure that Illinois joins the ranks of marriage equality states!
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