Illinois approves same-sex marriage

Law confers same protections and benefits for same-sex couples as for straight couples

click to enlarge The "score board" in the House shows votes on SB10, the same-sex marriage bill that passed the House today. - PATRICK YEAGLE
Patrick Yeagle
The "score board" in the House shows votes on SB10, the same-sex marriage bill that passed the House today.
The "score board" in the House shows votes on SB10, the same-sex marriage bill that passed the House today.
Patrick Yeagle
Gay and lesbian couples in Illinois will soon have the right to be married, following the passage today of a highly contentious bill that was years in the making.
    House sponsor Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, told reporters during a press conference shortly after the vote that he was happy to have the bill passed.
    “I’m so proud of our state for becoming the fifteenth state to do this,” Harris said. “I’m so proud of my colleagues for standing up for justice, for equality.”

Senate Bill 10 passed the House 61-54 on Tuesday afternoon, with two members voting present. When the bill was announced passed, most of the House chamber stood and applauded. Harris appeared to suppress his elation and hold back tears as he hugged fellow lawmakers.
The soon-to-be-law currently takes effect on July 1, but lawmakers may revote in January to make the law take effect immediately.
Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters he worked to convince between five and 10 individual legislators in the House to support the bill. Madigan quoted Pope Francis during his floor speech in support of the bill, saying he did not judge same-sex couples. Many of the state’s constitutional officers were present during the House debate, including Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, and Gov. Pat Quinn, who has vowed to sign the bill when it comes to his desk.   

Several Republican lawmakers spoke in opposition to the bill, mentioning concerns like religious freedom, raising children in same-sex households, and polygamists planning to use the bill to further their own agenda. One Republican said wedding photographers who might be forced to photograph gay weddings against their religious beliefs. Harris told reporters after the vote that businesses already cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation under existing Illinois law.
    Illinois approved civil unions in 2010, but the law was quickly deemed inadequate by gay rights advocates because it didn’t allow same sex couples to be recognized for federal benefits that rely on marriage. The bill passed the Senate on February 14, and Harris attempted to pass the bill shortly thereafter, but opposition among some religious groups and some members of the House Black Caucus prevented the bill from moving forward. Because the House amended the bill prior to passing it, the Senate had to approve the amended version, which it did shortly after the House passed the bill.

click to enlarge Rep. Greg Harris (center right) appears stoic following the passage of SB10. - PATRICK YEAGLE
Patrick Yeagle
Rep. Greg Harris (center right) appears stoic following the passage of SB10.
Rep. Greg Harris (center right) appears stoic following the passage of SB10.
Patrick Yeagle
Harris said he worked with opponents to craft the bill in a way that protected religious freedoms like the right of houses of worship to decline solemnizing a same-sex marriage if it goes against their beliefs.
“At the end of the day, all we’re talking about is treating every family in the State of Illinois with the same equality and justice under the law as others,” Harris said. “That’s all this bill is about: equal protection under the law.”
Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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