There are encouraging new developments on the prospect of marriage equality in Illinois. The "Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act" has been re-introduced and cleared the Illinois Senate Executive Committee on Tuesday, reports the Sun-Times.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), passed the Senate Executive Committee by a 9-5 vote and now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote expected to occur on Valentine's Day. "We think we have the votes, but [we are] cautiously optimistic," Steans said. "You never know until you're actually pushing those buttons. People are people."
A central question before the committee then was how institutions receiving public funding would be required to receive same-sex marriage ceremonies. But that language has been dropped from the bill this time, Steans said.
The same Senate committee approved a similar bill by an 8 to 5 vote during the lame-duck legislative session in early January. Supporters were forced to postpone the floor vote because they were three votes short of the minimum 30-vote threshold needed for passage.
"Marriage equality is coming to Illinois," he told lawmakers. "Now, it's time to take the next step in achieving full equality," Quinn said. "Let's pass this bill for marriage equality and let's do it now. Our Illinois is not a land of discrimination," Quinn said. "Four years ago, nobody thought civil unions would be possible here. Today, civil unions are the law of our state. Nearly 5,200 couples across 94 counties have joined in a civil union."
Illinois would become the tenth state to mandate equal marriage. Same-sex couples can now legally marry in 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.