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Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) hugs Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) after SB10 passed the Illinois Senate.

Gay marriage bill passes Illinois Senate

by Laurel White
Feb 14, 2013

Love won the day in the Illinois Senate.

In a historic, Valentine’s Day vote, the senate put its stamp of approval on a bill legalizing gay marriage in the Land of Lincoln, putting the state on track to becoming the nation’s 10th to legalize same-sex marriage.

The bill passed with a vote of 34-21-2 and now moves on to the state House of Representatives.

“I think this a huge step forward for Illinois,” Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief senate sponsor, said. “We’re looking forward to strong momentum here and getting it over to the house.”

The vote split mostly along party lines, with only one Republican, Jason Barickman of Bloomington voting in favor. Three Democrats were opposed: Gary Forby, Benton, William Haine, Alton, and John Sullivan, Rushville. The two “present” votes were from Napoleon Harris (D-Flossmoor) and Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago).

Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) is the bill’s sponsor in the house. He says he is optimistic about its chances in the chamber that many believe to be more socially conservative.

“Prospects are very good,” he said. “There is a movement in all segments of our society to do the right and just thing.”

A poll released today by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that 45.5 percent of Illinoisans support gay marriage. The remaining 54.5 percent was divided between those supporting civil unions but not marriage, no legal recognition and “other/don’t know.” The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Jan. 27 through Feb. 8.

During floor debate, lawmakers opposed to the bill voiced concern about the prospect of lawsuits being filed against religious facilities that don’t want to host gay weddings or celebrations. They also expressed concern that the bill would alter the way marriage was addressed in school settings.

Others voice opposition on social grounds.

“[The bill] is a strike at the heart of a fundamental societal institution,” Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) said.

Opponents of the bill will be participating in a lobby day in the capital next week.

“We’re hoping for a turnout of hundreds of people,” said David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, a nonprofit ministry. “We hope that we’ll send a strong message to our state lawmakers that this isn’t as popular as the lawmakers and media thinks.”

Smith said he believes the house doesn’t have the votes necessary for the bill to pass.

Harris said he doesn’t know when the bill will come up for a vote in the house, as the house leadership sets the schedule.

“As soon as we can send the bill to the governor and it becomes the law of the land I’ll be a very happy person,” he said.

Sixty votes are needed to pass the house, which has 118 members.