There are several new developments on the prospect of marriage equality in Illinois. There could be movement as soon as later this afternoon in the Senate, which is meeting today during the lame duck session, reports Kate Sosin at Windy City Times.
Sen. Heather Steans [said] that she wants to see a vote on Thursday. Steans said the bill should be in committee [Wednesday] evening by 5:30 p.m. She intends to call the bill to a vote on Thursday, she said. But anything is possible, she added. Several lawmakers have been on vacation for the holidays, and absences may delay a vote.
Both the House and Senate have until Jan. 9, when new legislators are sworn in, to pass a bill. Failing that deadline, LGBT supporters would have to begin lobbying efforts with a fresh set of lawmakers next session. But Steans has indicated to local media that she believes the votes are close and that she hopes to pass the bill in the Senate so that it can be sent on to the House early next week.
The push for a vote in the final days of the General Assembly session comes after President Obama took the rare step of speaking out in favor of the state legislation.The President issued a statement in support of equal marriage in his home state over the weekend, the Sun-Times reported.
"While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by state legislatures, he believes in treating everyone fairly and equally, with dignity and respect," White House spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday. "As he has said, his personal view is that it's wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the President still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples equally," Inouye said.
The lead sponsors of the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" are State Sen. Heather Steans and State Rep. Greg Harris. Both are out Democratic legislators from Chicago. Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also supports the legislation.
The "toughest challenge" for winning passage is reportedly in the Illinois House. The prospects for passage in the Illinois Senate--where Obama once served--are reportedly much brighter. Both chambers currently have a Democratic majority but will boast a Democratic super-majority when the new legislature is seated next week.
The General Assembly passed a landmark civil unions bill in December 2010 that became effective on June 1, 2011. Same-sex couples can now legally marry in nine states—Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington—and the District of Columbia.