Valentine's Day vote a powerful tribute to LGBT lovers everywhere
by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
In a vote symbolically scheduled for February 14, the Illinois Senate approved marriage equality legislation by a vote of 34 to 21, with two abstentions.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, called it 'a vote for the history books.'
'We have the opportunity today to welcome all families in Illinois as equally valued,' she said.
The bill now goes to the Illinois House where, according to the Chicago Tribune, 'the fight is expected to be tougher.'
GOVERNOR URGED PASSAGE
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign the bill when it comes to his desk. On February 6, Quinn called for the legislature to pass the marriage bill quickly, saying, 'Marriage equality is a matter of fairness and equal rights under law.'
'We took the first step towards marriage equality two years ago when I signed civil unions into law. Since that day, thousands of committed couples in 92 counties across our state have entered into civil unions,' he added.
'Now is the time for the next step in providing equal rights to all people in Illinois.'
Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, noted that three other states are considering similar legislation. A marriage equality bill has passed the Rhode Island House and has been sent to the Senate, and another is expected in Delaware, Taylor said.
'All eyes are on us,' said Taylor, who is based in Illinois. 'It's looking great. We're very excited about Illinois.'
Under the measure, state law would be changed to describe marriage as an act between two people rather than between a man and a woman.
In a nod to religious objections, the legislation explicitly says nothing in the law would force a religious denomination or minster to 'solemnize any marriage.' People in civil unions would be able to convert them to marriages within a year of a same-sex marriage law going on the books in Illinois.
Sen. Jason Barickman was the only Republican to vote Yes. He said he worked with Steans on the exemption before pledging his support.
'I think it was the right thing to do,' Barickman said. 'It's a vote that I understand some have varying opinions on, but I feel that I voted in the correct way.'
'DAY OF CELEBRATION'
Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Democrat who represents a Chicago district, told his colleagues that this particular Valentine's Day was a 'day of celebration.'
'This is a bill that is a defining moment here in this state,' Sandoval said, saying marriage equality will help break down barriers that have prevented some Illinois citizens from getting the justice they deserve.
Although he himself is Catholic, Sandoval lashed out at Catholic Church officials who strongly opposed the legislation, saying, 'Our religious leaders have failed us.'
ECHOES OF HISTORY
Sen. Willie Delgado, another Chicago Democrat, called for an end to prejudice against Gay and Lesbian couples, saying all citizens are the same 'in the Lord's eyes.'
Delgado said he was having flashbacks to the movie Lincoln, which focuses on the 1865 campaign to pass the 13th Amendment and abolish slavery.
'For the love of God, I feel like I'm sitting in 1865, where similar debates were created on why slavery should continue in this country,' Delgado said, adding, 'This is the time. This is the place. This is the moment ... We are one people.'
Polls show that legalizing same-sex marriage is gaining support across the country, although it remains less popular in some Midwestern and Southern states than elsewhere.
REPUBLICAN CHAIR: PASS IT
Even Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said last month that he supported same-sex marriage and urged legislators to vote for it.
The move prompted criticism from conservative Republicans, including state Sen. Jim Oberweis, but Oberweis seemed resigned to Republicans lacking the votes to stop the bill.
'I hope that we resolve this issue sooner rather than later because the state of Illinois has some tremendous financial problems to deal with, which in my view is where we should be concentrating our focus and our time,' he said.
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