Illinois Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Valentine's Day turned out to be one for the (law) books for gay marriage proponents.

The Illinois Senate advanced a bill legalizing same-sex marriage Thursday, voting 34-21-2 in favor of the measure.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, called it "a vote for the history books."

"We have the opportunity today to welcome all families in Illinois as equally valued," she said.

/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";} Gov. Pat Quinn has already said he will sign the bill once it passes. The House still needs to pass the bill.

"Today, we are one step closer to marriage equality in Illinois," Quinn said in a statement shortly after the Senate vote. "Couples across Illinois have even more reason today to celebrate their love for each other, thanks to the hard work of committed advocates and lawmakers."

In his State of the State address last week, Quinn expressed confidence that "marriage equality is coming to Illinois," and thanked Steans and Representative Greg Harris for working on the bill.

Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, was the only Republican to vote yes. He said he worked with Steans on an amendment explicitly stating that no church or other religious organization would be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages before pledging his support.

"I think it was the right thing to do," Barickman said. "It's a vote that I understand some have varying opinions on, but I feel that I voted in the correct way."

Meanwhile, opponents were working to ramp up opposition in the more conservative House of Representatives. Still, Harris said the bill's "prospects are very good" in that chamber.

Harris said he hasn't spoken with House leadership about when a vote may occur in the House, but he said he hopes it will be soon. He wouldn't comment on how the roll call looks so far.

The Associated Press reports that GOP leaders in Illinois say the issue is more complicated than it sounds. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who backed gay marriage after the lame-duck session, has said the GOP needs to be more inclusive if the party wants a shot at the governor's seat in 2014. That didn't sit too well with gay marriage opponents, who called for Brady's ouster last month.

Last week an Illinois Senate committee approved legalizing gay marriage, voting 9-5 to move forward legislation that gives marital rights to same sex couples. Democrats with a 40-member majority say they have the needed votes.

The same committee OK'd a similar measure just after the New Year -- in the final days of the last General Assembly. But a floor vote was scuttled because supporters feared they were short of the 30 necessary votes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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