Gay Marriage Vote Hits Snag

Senate Democrats expected to try again Thursday

UPDATE: Senate Committee Passes Gay Marriage Bill; Full Floor Vote Delayed

An expected vote on landmark legislation that would allow same-sex marriage in Illinois hit a snag Wednesday evening.

The issue was headed for an Executive Committee hearing before Senate Republicans rejected Sen. Heather Steans' attempt to attach the marriage language to existing legislation. A spokeswoman said Senate Democrats will seek another bill and move forward Thursday.

Steans, a Chicago Democrat, has said she has enough Senate votes for approval of the legislation -- the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act -- but she also said timing is key because some supporters aren't in attendance yet.

Marriage-equality supporters said the failure to get Senate approval for a procedural measure that would have allowed a committee hearing was a blip and will delay consideration only until Thursday.

And there is momentum. The chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Pat Brady, on Wednesday gave his "full support" of the pending legislation.

"More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way," Brady said. "Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value - that the law should treat all citizens equally."

Still, action on the bill was anticlimactic Wednesday after a day of pressure on both sides featuring a gay TV star campaigning in favor and more than 1,000 religious leaders, from Catholics to Muslims, signing a letter opposing it.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports same-sex marriage and said he wants a bill sent to him from the legislative session scheduled through Jan. 9, the final days of the 97th General Assembly. It includes dozens of lame-duck lawmakers who won't be sworn into the next assembly and thus have more freedom to back contentious issues.

If approved, Illinois would become the 10th state to approve same-sex marriage, a proposal made just 18 months after the state recognized civil unions and one riding momentum from several events, including public encouragement from President Barack Obama.

Proponents maintain the legislation would not impinge on religious beliefs. Religious organizations would not have to recognize or consecrate gay marriage.

But a day after influential Cardinal Francis George of Chicago denounced the idea as going against the "natural order'" of traditional marriage, a letter from 1,700 state religious leaders was sent to every Illinois lawmaker deriding claims that the proposal wouldn't interfere with religious freedom.

"The real peril: If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations -- regardless of deeply held beliefs --  will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations,'' said the letter, penned by leaders of Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon, Anglican, and Islamic faiths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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