After a tearful closing statement by [chief sponsor Sen. Heather] Steans, applause erupted in the chamber the moment the roll call surpassed the necessary 30 votes it needed to move to the House.
But her bill was decried by a mostly unified Republican front as an affront to the Bible. "We are knocking down one of the central foundations of society with this bill," said state Sen. Dale Bivins (R-Dixon), a "no" vote who cited poet Robert Frost and the Scriptures in pushing the bill's defeat.
Others described Thursday's vote as a step similar to the epic civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s, when such racial disparities as bans on interracial marriages ultimately were set aside. "Martin Luther King once said, 'The moral arc of the universe is long, but it always bends toward justice,'" said Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields). "And today, we have an opportunity, each and every one of us, to put our hands on that arc and bend it toward what's fair and what's right," she said.
The roll call of the Valentine's Day vote is HERE. Two Democrats abstained and voted "present."
The legislation now moves to the Illinois House. Democrats maintain a super-majority in that chamber but a closer vote is expected, notes the Windy City Times.
LGBT leaders said that the level of Senate support for the measure could forecast momentum in the House, where a much tougher fight has been predicted.
[Chief sponsor Rep. Greg] Harris said he is not yet certain when the bill will come to a vote in the house and declined to speculate on when sponsors would have the votes secured. LGBT groups have said that the bill could be on Governor Quinn's desk by the end of the month. Quinn strongly supports the legislation.
"This is an historic moment and demonstrates once again that Illinois is the land of Lincoln. Fairness justice and equality for all," said Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project. "Just two years ago we thought this day was years away. ... This is an important step, but there is still more work to do."
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.
The "Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act" was introduced and passed in the Illinois Senate Executive Committee by a 9-5 vote last week. 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.
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.