UPDATE: Illinois gay marriage hearing delayed

Wed. January 2, 2013 5:54 PM by ChicagoPride.com News Staff

Chicago, IL - Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago had planned to bring the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act to a hearing in the Senate Executive Committee Wednesday, but due to procedural issues the bill will not be heard as planned.

"This is just a technicality and is not something that we are worried about," said Rick Garcia, Director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and Senior Policy Advisor of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA). "We look forward to the bill being heard in committee tomorrow."

By time the delay was announced, gay rights advocates and allies had already gathered at the State Capitol in Springfield for today's hearing on HB 5170.

TCRA's Executive Director, Anthony Martinez, told ChicagoPride.com that the delay was due to a rule that prevents the bill from being heard less than 24 hours after its been posted. Martinez said the bill will most likely be heard Thursday morning with hopes the bill can still gain approval in time for a Senate vote on Thursday, where it needs at least 30 votes before it can move to the House.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov told the Windy City Times that not enough Senate Democrats were present to vote to waive 24-hour rule. James Meeks, Bill Haine and Gary Forby, all Democrats, voted against the waiver.

Both the House and Senate have until Jan. 9 to pass a bill before the end of the 97th General Assembly and new legislators are sworn in.

Momentum for marriage equality in Illinois began last month when Steans and Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said that they will push for a vote during the General Assembly's lame-duck session.

In February Harris, along with two other openly gay representatives, Deb Mell (D-Chicago) and Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), introduced HB 5170, which would give gay and lesbian couples in Illinois the freedom to marry.

Support comes from both state Democrats and Republicans. Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, stated his "full support" of marriage equality legislation.

According the the Illinois Review and the civil coalition "Illinois Unites for Marriage," Brady was making calls to other Republican lawmakers asking them to support the proposal legalizing marriage equality.

"More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way," Brady said in a statement. "Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value - that the law should treat all citizens equally."

If approved, Illinois would become the 10th state to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

Continuing coverage on ChicagoPride.com with live updates on Twitter @GoPride.