Illinois has moved one step closer to becoming the tenth state to mandate marriage equality after the House Executive Committee advanced the bill late last night. But the 6-5 vote and the words of one Democratic legislator could signal the bill could be "short of votes needed to pass the full chamber," reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act advanced out of the House Executive Committee on a 6-5 vote with the panel’s four Republicans voting against the plan. State Rep. Eddie Jackson (D-East St. Louis) was the lone Democrat on the panel to vote no.
"What we have here tonight is a chance to make an important step for the state of Illinois, to make Illinois a more just state, to make Illinois a state that respects all of its citizens equally under the law," said state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief House sponsor.
Beyond Jackson, there were other fissures within the Democratic Party. Harris’ bill drew opposition from state Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who voted to let the legislation move to the House floor but said he likely wouldn’t be a supporter once it’s called for a final vote. "I don’t think I could vote for this bill on the floor of the House because of my religious beliefs and because of the churches in my district I represent and support," Arroyo said.
Testifying in support of the bill were two of the city's most prominent Black pastors. The Rev. R. Herbert Martin of the Progressive Community Church was former Mayor Harold Washington’s minister. The Rev. Otis Moss III is pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, which is President Barack Obama’s former church. Both churches are on the city's South Side.
"Today, as a son of the South, born in the little town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, the largest all-black town in America, also as a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, an ordained member of the clergy and with an abiding conviction to justice and equality, I call upon you this evening to protect all Illinois residents under the law and support Senate Bill 10," said Rev. Martin.
The bill will "face its toughest challenge on the House floor," notes the Windy City Times.
The Senate approved its marriage bill by a 34-21 vote on Valentine's Day.
Illinois would become the second state after Iowa to approve equal marriage in the nation's heartland. 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. Quinn is a strong supporter of marriage equality, and campaigned on the issue. The governor has promised to sign the marriage bill.