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Support for Illinois gay marriage bill grows, House vote not anticipated until April

Springfield, IL — The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which, if passed, would make Illinois the 10th state in the union allowing its gay and lesbian citizens to marry, is not anticipated to see action until early April.

"We are closing in on 60 votes," Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, told Windy City Times on Thursday. 

Cherkasov indicated the bill will not face a House vote until after lawmakers return from spring break on April 8.

Jim Bennett, regional dir. of Lambda Legal, which has been lobbying of the bill's behalf, told ChicagoPride.com on Tuesday that the House was most likely just moving legislation out of committees this week.

"If it is this week I would be surprised," Bennett said. "But it still could happen—I certainly hope it does."

He said he remains positive about the legislation's chances for passage.

"Last week we met with some Republican legislators who had asked to meet with some of the families speaking on the bill's behalf," said Bennett. "It was surprising to have someone reach out like that when we were not really counting on their support."

Bennett added, "If most of the Republicans were voting their own personal beliefs, this would pass overwhelmingly."

Fifty-eight percent of Americans think gay marriage should be legal, according to poll results released by Washington Post-ABC News Monday, and 36 percent remain opposed. The numbers are nearly the mirror opposite from opinion polls taken a decade ago—in 2003, 37 percent of Americans supported gay marriage, and 55 percent opposed it. According to a Crain's/Ipsos poll released last month, 50 percent of Illinoisans support gay marriage and 20 percent are opposed.

"The majority of Illinoisans want this, and the legislators know their constituents want it," said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov last week.

Sixty votes are needed for passage. Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill's sponsor, has refused to publicly announce when it might take place. He told Chicago Sun-Times March 4, "When I call this for a vote, it will pass."

The legislation passed the House Executive Committee in a narrow 6-5 vote Feb. 26, and the full state Senate Feb. 14. A House vote had been expected last week, but did not take place. 

Marriage equality advocates continue to encourage supporters to contact their representatives. "People should be calling their representatives about this every day," Bennett said. "Our numbers (of calls) have to stay above the numbers of our opponents."

Related: Record high support for gay marriage, poll finds

How Illinois lawmakers stack up on marriage equality
Based on lawmakers' comments, history, questionnaire answers and media statements, Windy City Times has generated a complete list of how House members are indicating they'll vote. 

On the Web: Find your representative
 
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