Vote on Illinois marriage equality going down to the wire

Tue. May 28, 2013 8:38 AM by News Staff

Only four days remain to pass marriage equality bill during spring session

Springfield, IL - With the General Assembly nearing the end of its spring session, marriage rights advocates are calling for a vote on a stalled bill that would make Illinois the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

SB10, or the Religious Freedom and Marriage Act, which passed the House Executive Committee in a narrow 6-5 vote Feb. 26, and the full state Senate Feb. 14, has the support of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, leaving a vote in the House as the final obstacle before becoming law. But with only days left in the spring session, which ends May 31, supporters say time is running out.

"All eyes are on the House of Representative to see if they would do the right thing and therefore join the right side of history," said Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov.

Sponsors and advocates have been reluctant to call a vote until they've been assured of at least 60 votes in the House—and now they say those votes are in place.

"The votes are, indeed, there," Cherkasov told May 21.

Illinois Unites for Marriage, the coalition lobbying for the bill, acknowledged that they'd largely wrapped up a number of their lobbying activities. Cherkasov said that the coalition had done "everything it's supposed to do."

Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said that the final decision on when the bill comes up for a vote is in the hands of the legislation's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). "When he is confident the votes have been secured, he will let the Speaker know," Brown said. "The Speaker wants to see this happen."

In addition to Gov. Quinn and Speaker Madigan, the measure has the support of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, the state's top elected Republican, and outgoing state Republican chairman Pat Brady. Two Republicans, state Reps. Ed Sullivan Jr. and Ron Sandack, have pledged their support for the bill.

Even with a Democratic majority in the House, it's generally a more conservative body than the Senate; supporters have had to carefully weigh when to call the vote as numbers have fluctuated since March. 

Rick Garcia of The Civil Rights Agenda said he is optimistic there will be a House vote this week. He explained that a successful vote is a matter of timing.

"While some had hoped for a vote earlier, we have to realize the ways of Springfield," he said. "In order to get to the 60 votes in the House, we have to make sure everyone is there and ready to vote."

Harris has remained tight-lipped about when he would call a vote, but he told May 16, "When it goes up on the board, it will go up with the necessary number of votes."

Illinois Unites for Marriage continues to encourage supporters to contact their representatives until a vote is called.

The new law would take effect 30 days after signing.

Matt Simonette contributed to this report.

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