Quinn Vows to Push for Gay Marriage in Illinois

Governor says civil unions have worked well in Illinois over the past year, and he thinks the state is ready for same-sex marriage

Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday ramped up his support for same-sex marriage, saying he'll work with Illinois lawmakers to make it a reality without waiting for the courts to act first.

"I don't think we want to wait on courts," Quinn said. "I think in Illinois, we are able to show the nation that we are a state that believes in respecting everyone. Everyone has dignity and rights."

His remarks come days after he voiced support for President Obama's announcement in support of gay couples getting married.

"I was very happy to see the president speak out as he did last week and I wanted to lend my voice of support to him and to our state," Quinn said.

Explaining his evolution on the issue, Quinn said civil unions have worked well in Illinois over the past year, and he thinks the state is ready for same-sex marriage.

"We've had more than 3,700 civil unions in almost every county in Illinois. I think it's working very well," Quinn said. "This is a process of democracy. In order to get something changed you have to get a majority in both houses, and I plan to do that for marriage equality."

His remarks were the first time he has openly supported same-sex marriage. The governor has dodged the issue multiple times before, saying that he supported civil unions but remaining vague on the institution of marriage itself.

Even with such staunch support from the governor, and from the president, the same-sex marriage issue will likely not be voted on in Illinois before the House closes on May 31.

Illinois Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) believes that same-sex marriage falls below many other issues that are up for vote this election season.

"I think we have a few other things on our plate, like pensions, health care, Medicaid, public safety, education, the state budget, and I think that's going to take all of our time and attention," he said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Harris was one of three openly gay legislators who in February introduced what they called the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act." The bill -- HB5170 -- would eliminate the part of state law that now explicitly prohibits gay marriages and would offer same-sex couples the marriage rights now exclusively available to heterosexual couples.

Not all Illinois lawmakers are excited about Quinn's support of the issue, though, so Quinn may have a tough road ahead of him to finagle a majority vote.

Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon) said he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, and added that he would support a ban on same-sex marriage in Illinois.

Washington, D.C., and six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont — have legalized same-sex marriage. 

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