It Passed! Illinois Set to Become 15th State for Marriage Equality

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com November 05 2013 4:01 PM ET

The Illinois House of Representatives passed the state's marriage equality bill today, assuring that it will become law.

The House approved the bill by a vote of 61-54, Chicago TV station WMAQ reports. The bill passed in the state Senate in February, and Gov. Pat Quinn says he will sign it.

The measure will go into effect June 1. Rep. Greg Harris, its chief sponsor, had originally set it to go into effect January 1, but that would have required a supermajority with 71 votes in favor. Because of this, it had to go back for a second Senate approval, which took place late this afternoon. This positions Illinois to be the 15th state with marriage equality, although if Hawaii passes the bill pending there, it could go into effect earlier.

The House vote was largely along party lines, with only three Republicans voting in favor of it. Eleven Democrats voted against it, and two voted present.

Before the vote was taken, Harris addressed the House and said that Illinoisans in same-sex relationships had moved "from a second-class to a third-class status" since the February Senate vote, as in the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, so that the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages. Illinois gay and lesbian couples who marry in other states "lose rights when they return to Illinois," Harris said, according to Windy City Times. Illinois has offered civil unions to same-sex couples since 2011, and these will now be converted to marriages.

Other out lawmakers joined Harris, who is gay, in championing the bill. "You will never regret doing the right thing," Rep. Kelly Cassidy told her fellow House members. She also talked about what the legislation means to her personally, as she and her female partner are raising three children, who have sometimes been questioned about their family's status, the Times notes.

The factor that pushed the bill over the top appeared to be House Speaker Michael Madigan's rallying of the vote. Madigan, perhaps the state's most powerful politician, had been making calls to House members the past few days to encourage yes votes; he had been criticized earlier for not doing more to move the bill along.

The measure had many other prominent supporters, including Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. senator Mark Kirk, former president Bill Clinton, and, most notably, President Obama.

There was joyful reaction from Illinois and national sources. "We have a wonderful day for the state of Illinois," said Harris at a press conference after the vote. He thanked Madigan for the role he played in getting the bill through.

Governor Quinn issued a statement saying, "Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history. Illinois is a place that embraces all people and today, we are an example for the nation."

Others reacting included Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, which was a lead partner in the coalition Illinois Unites for Marriage. "This is great news for the thousands of committed same-sex couples in Illinois who will now be able to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family, protected and supported by their marriage," he said.  "It also represents tremendous momentum, with another victory in the heartland and our sixth state victory in 2013."

"This is a great day for Illinois and for the rest of the country" said Rick Garcia, policy director and director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project for the Civil Rights Agenda, an LGBT group. "Fairness, decency, and equality were affirmed by our legislature. Same-gender couples will have the same state benefits as their heterosexual counterparts."

Chicago mayor Emanuel issued the following statement: “Today is a critical moment in history for Illinois and for the entire LGBT movement. Finally, gays and lesbians across our state are guaranteed the fundamental right to marry, and countless couples with children will be acknowledged for what they are under the law — families just like everyone else."

There will be a victory party tonight at the Chicago gay bar Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. The party will last through the evening, but organizers hope to have supporters of the bill address attendees between 8 and 9 p.m. Also, the Gay Liberation Network is planning a victory rally Thursday at 7 p.m. at the corner of Halsted and Roscoe streets.