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Cullerton Wants Gay-Marriage Vote On Feb. 14

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he wants to pass same-sex marriage legislation on Valentine's Day.

    Cullerton tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he'd like the state Senate to pass the measure out of committee next week and vote to approve it on Feb. 14.

    Cullerton says he believes the bill has the 30 votes needed to pass and move to the Illinois House.

    Advocates have been pushing for legislation that offers same-sex couples marriage rights currently only available to heterosexual couples. They'd hoped to capitalize on momentum from other states and President Barack Obama's support.

    A Senate committee voted 8-5 in January in favor of a bill that would allow gay marriage, but with key supporters absent, Senate Democrats delayed a full floor vote. The Senate then canceled its schedule for the next day, and Cullerton said at the time lawmakers were unlikely to return to Springfield before the session ends Jan. 9.

    Democrats called off a full Senate vote earlier that day after Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said three lawmakers weren't present for the General Assembly's lame-duck session. One Democrat was out of the country and another had a family issue to attend, while a GOP supporter was absent because of her mother's death.

    "This is definitely a question of when, not if," Steans said. "This is the right thing to be doing."

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is among the supporters.

    "Gay and lesbian couples deserve full recognition of their relationships," she said in a statement shortly after the committee's vote. "Couples who are in loving, committed relationships should be able to marry and be treated equally in the eye of the law."

    Many faith organizations are opposed to the proposal on religious freedom grounds, arguing it would compel them to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of traditional marriage.

    "The bill, as it's drafted now, will make it almost impossible for a religious organization to prohibit the use of its facilities for same-sex marriages, even if the tenets of that particular faith are diametrically opposed to that, and I think it's a fatal flaw in the bill," said Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon).

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.