Clock Runs Out on Illinois Marriage Equality Bill

Despite a Senate committee vote in favor (8-5) of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act on Thursday, advocates in Illinois will not push for marriage equality legislation in the final days of this session.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

January 04 2013 2:14 PM ET

Despite a recent Senate committee vote in favor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, activists pushing for marriage equality legislation in Illinois have thrown in the towel for this legislative session. Equality Illinois issued a statement yesterday saying there is not enough time to pass the bill before the 97th General Assembly adjourns on Wednesday, but promised the fight will resume in the next session, which begins January 9.

"With just a handful of days remaining in the current lame duck session, time to move the bill through both chambers is not on our side," the LGBT advocacy organization said yesterday in a press release. "So we will act in the new General Assembly that convenes next week, on Wednesday, January 9."

But the organization leading the charge for marriage equality in Illinois said it won't relent on efforts to pass the bill in 2013.

"Our opponents should not believe that have turned the tide against the growing national and Illinois consensus favoring marriage equality," said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov. "The clock simply ran out, and our legislative supporters ran out of time."

Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, told members of the media that several key Senators were absent from the legislature in the final days of the session, making a passing vote impossible. "What's important when we reconvene is that we work to protect and strengthen all Illinois families, and that's what this legislation does," said Cullerton, according to the Windy City Times. "I'm confident we can advance this bill in the coming weeks."

Advocates outside the organization are conflicted about the decision to pull back on efforts that appeared to be building momentum, reports Windy City

Rick Garcia, senior policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda, told Windy City he was disappointed with the move, since he believed the measure had a chance of passing this session.

"What I have learned — and I have been down here [at the state capitol in Springfield] for 20 years, and I have worked on things — is that on every piece of legislation I have worked on, there are dark times, when you think it's not going to go," said Garcia. "You push forward, and you stand firm, you move and move until you can't move any more. To throw in the towel now is a stupid maneuver. TCRA is here and we've been here for the past three years, and we knew nothing about this decision until we saw the press release."

Illinois currently offers civil unions to same-sex couples. Gov. Pat Quinn supports marriage equality and would sign the bill. Several other high-profile politicians have thrown their support behind it, including President Obama, who served as an Illinois state and U.S. senator, marking the first time during his presidency that he has become involved in a state-level legislative campaign.

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