From WILL - News -

Same-Sex Marriage Bill Poised To Become Law

Greg Harris and Pat Quinn

Illinois Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, left, is congratulated by lawmakers as gay marriage legislation passes on the House floor during veto session Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Springfield Ill. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, top center, looks on. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Same-sex marriage took a big step toward becoming law in Illinois on Tuesday. The Illinois General Assembly approved a bill to allow gay couples to wed.

The 61-54 vote in the House sent measure back to the Senate late Tuesday afternoon for minor changes from a version it approved on Valentine's Day. The measure now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he will sign it into law. 

The historic vote in Illinois came after months of arduous lobbying by gay-rights advocates, but the bill was never called for a House vote earlier this year because the sponsor said there were not enough votes.

Urbana resident Kevin Bowersox-Johnson said he is overjoyed that Illinois is a step closer to allow same-sex couples to marry. Bowersox-Johnson heads the gay-rights group, the Up Center of Champaign County.

“For my family and I this means one step closer to being fully recognized as a married couple," he said. "And my son getting to grow up in a household where he is and his family are seen as equal.”

Bowersox-Johnson was also part of a lawsuit with other same-sex couples pushing for marriage equality in Illinois.

Proponents say momentum for the legislation had been building, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Rep. Sam Yingling, a Democrat from Round Lake Beach, is one of a handful of openly gay state legislators.

"We are a family that is treated differently under the eyes of the law," Yingling said. "We are a family that does not have the same protections that your family has."

Gov. Quinn watched the floor debate in the House on Tuesday, which lasted more than two hours.

“Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history,” Quinn said. “llinois is a place that embraces all people and today, we are an example for the nation.” 

The historic vote in Illinois came after months of arduous lobbying by gay-rights advocates, but the bill was never called for a House vote earlier this year because the sponsor said there weren't enough votes.

Proponents say momentum had been building, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Other state leaders who support the measure and also watched the debate were Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. In a statement, Madigan called it a "victory'' for the principles and freedom and fairness.  

Three Republicans also joined those voting in favor, including former House Minority Leader Tom Cross of Oswego who had not revealed how he would vote ahead of Tuesday.  The representative stepped down from his leadership position earlier this year and is seeking statewide office as treasurer.

"For me, supporting marriage equality is not only the right decision, but also consistent with my belief in individual freedom, equality and limited government,'' Cross said in a statement.

The vote among east central Illinois lawmakers was not entirely along party lines. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) voted against the measure.  All House Republicans from the area voted the bill down, including Adam Brown (R-Champaign), Chad Hays (R-Catlin), Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth), Josh Harms (R-Watseka), and Brad Halbrook (R-Charleston.)  Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) voted for same-sex marriage.

Opponents say marriage should remain between a man and woman. The Illinois Family Institute's David Smith said the vote by the Illinois House to legalize same-sex marriage in the state marks a "sad day for religious liberty."

“Illinois just took a terrible step to remove religious liberties for people of faith, and to punish people for their religious convictions," Smith said. "(The state) will now be teaching children that homosexuality is good and healthy in our government schools.”

Smith said he intends to look for ways to challenge the measure, and launch a political action committee to go after vulnerable lawmakers who supported the bill.

Gov. Quinn said he will sign the marriage bill into law. If that happens as expected, the first same-sex weddings in Illinois will happen June 1.

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said that is plenty of time for his office to prepare to issue marriage licenses. He said he is going to take time to research how this will be implemented.

“My assumption is going to be that that our marriage process that we use now for non-same-sex marriages will be exactly the same for the one that we will start using June 1st of 2014 for same-sex marriages,” Hulten explained.

In a statement, President Obama applauded the Illinois General Assembly for passing the bill.

"As I said in my Inaugural Address last January, our journey as a nation is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," Obama said. "And tonight, I’m so proud that the men and women elected to serve the people of the great state of Illinois have chosen to take us one step further on that journey to perfect our union.

Fourteen states plus Washington D.C., allow same-sex marriage.