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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 8 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 45
Illinois passes full marriage equality - Governor to sign bill later this month; weddings will begin June 1, 2014
Section One
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Illinois passes full marriage equality - Governor to sign bill later this month; weddings will begin June 1, 2014

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Marriage equality is finally a done deal in Illinois, the nation's fifth most populous state.

The Illinois legislature gave its final approval on November 5 to a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, sending it to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature. Quinn, who strongly supports the measure, said he would delay the signing to allow time to organize a signing ceremony.

'We're going to make an arrangement so lots and lots of people can come to the ceremony,' Quinn told the Chicago Tribune. 'I think it's important to have an opportunity for the people who worked so hard in the community to pass marriage equality to have an opportunity to be there at the bill signing. This is what democracy is all about - people banning together for a cause they believe in, passing a law that makes our state a better place.'

Once Quinn signs the bill into law, marriages can begin on June 1, 2014. The bill's legislative sponsors agreed to delay the date the law takes effect in order to secure a 60-vote threshold to pass it. Had they insisted that the law take effect in 30 days, the threshold would have been an unreachable 72 votes.

As it was, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the measure with only one vote to spare, 61-54. The Senate, which passed the original version of the bill on Valentine's Day this year, concurred with the House version the same day, by a 32-to-21 margin.

BACK FROM THE DEAD House sponsors of the marriage bill did not bring it to the floor during the regular legislative session, which ended May 31, because they lacked enough votes to pass it.

The Illinois legislature is now in what is called a 'veto session.' While the veto session was intended to allow lawmakers a chance to override a governor's vetoes, other unfinished business - like the marriage bill - may also be taken up.

When the first day of the veto session was canceled on October 25 without a word said about the marriage measure, activists feared that the bill would be dropped, and picketed the office of prime sponsor Rep. Greg Harris. But news that the bill had passed led them to organize a victory rally in Chicago's Gay neighborhood.

'Just two weeks ago this bill was widely seen as dead in the water for this fall veto session,' said Gay Liberation Network co-founder Andy Thayer, one of the organizers of the rally.

'What changed? It was the people that forced this bill onto the agenda for this fall veto session, not the politicians and insiders. It was the explicit threat of political retribution to those in Springfield who stood in our way or only halfheartedly supported equal rights. Like with so many justice struggles before this, it was grassroots efforts that made this bill pass.'

'LONG-FOUGHT VICTORY' 'With this rally we will not only savor this victory, but also send the message that the fight for LGBTQ rights does not end with marriage equality in Illinois,' said GLN spokesman Bob Schwartz. 'This has been a long-fought victory. We have been working on this issue since long before it was popular in the LGBT community, let alone in the state at large.'

Illinois will become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage - or the 16th, if Hawaii, whose legislature is also debating a marriage bill, enacts its law before next June.

'I am thrilled to share that just moments ago, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the historic freedom to marry bill!' Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov told reporters.

'The bill passed with a bipartisan vote, with Chicago, suburban, and downstate, African-American, and Latino lawmakers all joining forces to do the right thing by Illinois families. Illinois now joins the inevitable march to marriage equality for all Gay and Lesbian couples throughout the U.S.'

Lambda Legal, which had filed a lawsuit challenging Illinois' ban on same-sex marriages, also hailed the bill's passage.

'Wedding bells will ring in the Land of Lincoln!' the group said in a statement.

'Lambda Legal has been working hard to get to this day: From the day we filed our lawsuit in 2012, to all the legislative visits and testimony that our courageous clients provided for legislative hearings, to all the hours of drafting, preparation, and technical support that our expert attorneys provided to legislators - this victory for same-sex couples and their families is sweet!'

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