Springfield, IL -
Moving swiftly on the first day of Illinois' new legislative session, the sponsors of a marriage equality bill Wednesday filed Senate and House bills that would grant same-sex couples the freedom to marry.
"We are one step closer to equality in the Land of Lincoln," said state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).
Harris and state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) introduced legislation, known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, shortly after members of the 98th General Assembly were sworn in. Both bills include language identical to the bill approved in the Senate Executive Committee last Thursday
by an 8-5 vote.
"Last week, the Senate Executive Committee made history by approving same-sex marriage and gave our efforts incredible momentum," said Steans.
After the vote, Senate Democrats and Illinois Unites for Marriage, a coalition led by Equality Illinois
, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois, decided to regroup and wait for the start of the 98 General Assembly.
That decision upset Rick Garcia of The Civil Rights Agenda
, who called it a "stupid maneuver." However, the organizations leading Illinois Unites said they exhausted all options to pass the bill on the Senate floor before the lame duck session ended.
With the new General Assembly sworn in, Democrats now have veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate and advocates believe legislation legalizing gay marriage will likely pass. Gov. Quinn has said he would sign the bill into law.
"We expect the House and Senate to promptly pass the measure and remove the current barrier to the equal availability of civil marriage," said EQIL CEO Bernard Cherkasov.
The legislation also shares the support of Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady, who said last week
that, "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."
Jim Bennett, Regional Director for the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal, said in a statement, "The introduction of the bill on the first day of the new Illinois Legislative session is yet another sign that it's a matter of when, and not if, marriage happens in Illinois."
Sponsors and advocates continue to encourage Illinoisans to contact their lawmakers in support of the bill.
For more on Illinois Unites, visit www.illinoisunites.org
Advocates are unsure when the measure could come to a vote. "Theoretically, it could be as early as February," Randy Hannig, policy director of Equality Illinois told the Windy City Times
The General Assembly is currently out but returns back into session Feb. 5.Related: Illinois gay marriage bill moves forward, but at a slower paceRelated: Illinois marriage equality rally energizes LGBT community