It does not appear likely that marriage equality legislation will pass this week or next in the Illinois General Assembly. The Senate Executive Committee advanced a marriage bill late Thursday. But the absence of supportive lawmakers in the lame duck session means that the bill will be postponed until the spring, reports NBC Chicago.
A Senate committee voted 8-5 late Thursday in favor of a bill that would allow gay marriage. But with key supporters absent, Senate Democrats delayed a full floor vote. The Senate then canceled its Friday schedule, and President John Cullerton said lawmakers are unlikely to return to Springfield before the session ends Jan. 9. New lawmakers will be sworn in that day.
When exactly supporters would get a crack at the divisive issue in that body remained unclear. Democrats called off a full Senate vote earlier in the day after Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said three lawmakers weren't present for the General Assembly's lame-duck session. One Democrat was out of the country and another had a family issue to attend, while a GOP supporter was absent because of her mother's death. "This is definitely a question of when, not if," Steans said. "This is the right thing to be doing."
The "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" has been plagued by procedural and legislative delays this week. The new session begins next week and the landscape should be more favorable toward passage, reports the Windy City Times. "There is no way for us to pass the bill in one house and continue in the other house in next assembly," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. "With just a handful of days remaining in the current lame duck session, time to move the bill through both chambers is not on our side."
The groups pushing for the measure say there are positive signs that marriage equality will pass this next session:
— The fight for marriage equality brought together religious leaders, business, labor unions, African-American and Latino communities, Democrats and Republicans, representing themselves and millions of Illinoisans.
— A coalition led by Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal and ACLU of Illinois and including scores more organizations, including The Civil Rights Agenda, came together under Illinois Unites for Marriage to campaign for the bill.
— The support of President Obama, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady and many more leaders.
Both chambers currently have a Democratic majority but will boast a Democratic super-majority when the new legislature is seated next week. The Senate will have a 40 -19 Democratic majority. The House will have a 71 - 47 Demoratic majority.
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.
Illinois became the sixth state to allow civil unions after Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed the landmark Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act in January 2011. The law became became effective on June 1, 2011.