Gay marriage bill clears Senate panel, moves to full voteContinue reading.
Illinois gay marriage bill that does ‘what’s right’ passes Senate, moves to House
SPRINGFIELD-Illinois moved a step closer Thursday to becoming the 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry as the state Senate approved legalizing gay marriage in a vote one backer described as “one for the history books.”
“It is time Illinois get rid of its second-class status for a segment of our residents and allow everyone the opportunity to reap the emotional, social and economic benefits and obligations of marriage,” said state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor.
Steans’ legislation passed the Senate 34-21 vote, with two present votes, and now moves to the House.
After a tearful closing statement by Steans, applause erupted in the chamber the moment the roll call surpassed the necessary 30 votes it needed to move to the House.
But her bill was decried by a mostly unified Republican front as an affront to the Bible.
“We are knocking down one of the central foundations of society with this bill,” said state Sen. Dale Bivins (R-Dixon), a “no” vote who cited poet Robert Frost and the Scriptures in pushing the bill’s defeat.
“From the Old Testament to the New, there’s nothing that supports same-sex marriage,” he said.
Other critics said gay marriage would filter into classroom curricula, change businesses and ultimately discriminate against those who believe only men and women should be able to marry one another.
“Businesses will be affected. Bed and breakfasts, florists, all those that are wedding-related, will be affected. They will choose to, most of them, dissolve their businesses. That’s what happened in other states,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), drawing scoffs and laughter from supporters of the bill.
Steans and other backers tweaked an earlier version of her legislation by strengthening language sought by religious groups that wouldn’t compel churches to open their buildings to gay weddings or their receptions if they morally oppose same-sex marriage.
“The exemption for religious facilities, such as parish halls, is absolute,” Steans said.
The long debate over her bill played out in front of a packed Senate chamber, with gay and lesbian couples crowding into the galleries to watch the historic deliberations.
Just as opponents cited the objections of religious groups to the legislation, one supporter fierily aimed directly at the Roman Catholic church itself for fighting Steans’ bill while in the past quietly condoning homosexuality and pedophilia within its ranks of priests.
“I … witnessed personally in my eight years in the seminary, you know, homosexuality, alcoholism and even men that were pedophiles,” said state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero). “The church and its leaders who didn’t provide any support to these good men of faith allowed them to ruin the lives of many of our loved ones.
“This is the day where you and I could send a message to our faith leaders we will live the greatest commandment of all, and that is love one another,” he said.
Others described Thursday’s vote as a step similar to the epic civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s, when such racial disparities as bans on interracial marriages ultimately were set aside.
“Martin Luther King once said, ‘The moral arc of the universe is long, but it always bends toward justice,’” said Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), who is a candidate in the 2nd Congressional District race and voted for the bill.
“And today, we have an opportunity, each and every one of us, to put our hands on that arc and bend it toward what’s fair and what’s right,” she said.
But opponents slammed the Senate’s Democratic leadership for allowing the gay-marriage initiative to move forward at a time when the state’s financial ledgers are in ruin because of more than $95 billion in pension debt.
“The pension debt must be our No. 1 focus. You should be using the same energy and use your immense power to present a pension bill immediately,” said Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Barrington Hills). “This marriage bill is a distraction, which is distracting attention from this state’s top priorities.”
Not all Republicans voted against the bill. One who backed it was Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Champaign), who said he was persuaded to support it because of its newly crafted safeguards protecting churches opposed to same-sex marriage from recognizing them.
“This is the right thing to do,” Barickman said.
Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and even President Barack Obama have called on the General Assembly to legalize gay marriage in the state.
If the House gets the measure to Quinn and he follows through on his pledge to sign it, Illinois would join Iowa, Washington, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maryland in allowing gay marriage.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), who is the lead House sponsor of the gay-marriage push, predicted the measure would pass the House but would not commit to a timetable on when he would seek a vote.
“Absolutely. This will be on the governor’s desk, and, hopefully, very soon it will be the law of the land,” he said.
Contributing: Zach Buccheit