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Illinois lawmakers approve gay marriage bill

LAST UPDATED: 03:10 p.m. HST, Nov 05, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. >> Illinois lawmakers today positioned their state to become the largest in the heartland to allow gay marriage, finally pushing the measure through the House after months of arduous lobbying in President Barack Obama's home state.

Under the legalization measure, which the state House approved 61-54 before sending it on to the Senate for technical changes, gay weddings could be held in Illinois starting in June. The bill heads next to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pledged to sign it, though it wasn't immediately clear when.

Fourteen states plus Washington D.C., allow same-sex marriage. 

The road to the Illinois vote was long with a stalled attempt earlier this year, something that frustrated activists in the state where Democrats lead the House, Senate and governor's office. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is the main sponsor, decided not to bring the bill for a vote in May because he said he simply didn't have the support. 

Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, something he said resonated with lawmakers. Backers also launched a furious campaign, hiring a union lobbyist, the former head of the Illinois Republican Party and field organizers statewide. 

"To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law we must change this," Harris said on the floor. "Families have been kept apart."

Debate lasted more than two hours, and the final roll call was met with hearty cheers. Supporters' speeches echoed themes of equality and civil rights with mentions of Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Matthew Shepard, a gay college student whose 1998 death sparked hate crime bills.

Among those celebrating were Suzie Hutton and Danielle Cook of Bloomington, who've been together for a dozen years and have a teenage son. 

"We care about our kids. We care about our communities. We're involved in our church. We just wanted the dignity (of marriage)," Hutton said.

Polls show support for gay marriage has surged since 1996, when Gallup found that 27 percent of Americans backed it. Now Gallup finds the majority support giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. 

In Illinois, the measure had backing from both the state's U.S. senators and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It also got a last-minute boost from longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, who serves as chair of the state's Democratic Party. The Chicago Democrat said he used the "art of persuasion" to bring on more than five votes in the last week.  

"Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history," Quinn said in a statement. "Illinois is a place that embraces all people and today, we are an example for the nation."

Obama praised the Illinois Legislature -- where he once served as a state lawmaker -- saying in a statement that the matter was conducted in a way that would recognize the importance of a "commitment to religious freedom."   

However, opponents -- including some of the most powerful religious leaders in Illinois -- have said marriage should remain between a man and a woman. A group of Chicago-area pastors vowed to line up primary challengers against some lawmakers who voted yes. 

"This issue is not just about two adults and their emotional relational and financial commitment to another," said Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican. "Redefining marriage has far reaching implications in our society."

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Mypualani wrote:
This has far reaching implications in our society? People like you said the same thing about mixed racial marriages, I wanna know what they are.
on November 5,2013 | 02:23PM
kuewa wrote:
If you are mixed raca, then you know the implications.
on November 6,2013 | 12:19AM
HanabataDays wrote:
That's an interesting comment when you consider that gender preference in humans is ranked on the Kinsey scale from 1 through 4. Our society's roughly a bell curve with the majority of individuals being somewhere in the 2-to-3 range -- on any given day, that is. (Some days are gayer than others, research seems to indicate.) So, yes, in a way it is similar to "mixed race" -- where how pidgin you talk depends on who stay listnen'.
on November 6,2013 | 02:53AM
mreduardo wrote:
Hawaii and Illinois in the same day? This would be so awesome for the USA!! Here's hoping the HI House of Reps closes the deal and makes 15th first…Yes to equality.
on November 5,2013 | 02:29PM
hawaiiwalter wrote:
It looks like the New Hope church doesn't have any folks supporting their unfortunate discrimination against marriage equality in Illinois. Maybe they should go there.
on November 5,2013 | 04:25PM
rbzs1 wrote:
YIKES! but not at all surprised.......
on November 5,2013 | 05:20PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Yep. I'm glad that I am not a kid. I would have a difficult time understanding why we are going against the Bible after church.
on November 6,2013 | 04:48AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Nice way to buy a vote.
on November 6,2013 | 04:49AM
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