Same-sex marriage bill heads to Illinois state Senate floor

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois Thu Jan 3, 2013 11:49pm EST

Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn addresses the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Reuters) - A panel of Illinois lawmakers voted on Thursday to send legislation legalizing gay marriage in President Barack Obama's home state to the floor of the state Senate, setting up a possible vote on the issue next week.

The 8-5 vote by the Senate Executive Committee fell along party lines, with the panel's Democratic majority supporting the measure and its Republican minority opposing it.

Although the Democratic-controlled Senate adjourned late on Thursday, lawmakers said the bill likely would be called on Tuesday when the Senate returns for a special session.

The Democratic-led state House of Representatives may take up the legislation next week as well. If the bill is approved by the Legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois would become the 10th state along with the District of Columbia to legalize same sex-nuptials and the first Midwest state to do so through legislation.

Iowa's Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009.

Spectators in the crowded committee room gave the committee a standing ovation after the measure passed, with many embracing and trading high-fives.

"This is a great feeling; we feel it's about time," said Theresa Volpe, 47, of Chicago, who testified before the committee along with her partner of 21 years, Mercedes Santos. They have two children, Ava, 8, and Jaidon, 4.

The two have had a civil union since Illinois began offering same-sex couples that option in June 2011. But Volpe said she was banned from her son's room in a hospital intensive care unit because the administrator did not understand what civil union meant.

Volpe and Santos are plaintiffs in a lawsuit demanding same-sex marriage in Illinois.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ISSUE

Although all Republican senators on the committee voted against the measure, Republican Senator Christine Radogno said she saw potential for bipartisan support down the line if changes were made to the bill's language.

A key issue to be resolved is whether Illinois should allow religious groups the option of declining to perform same-sex marriages. New York granted such an exception in 2011 in order to secure the votes to legalize gay marriage there.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, representing the Catholic Conference of Illinois, noted that he and the leaders of 1,700 other congregations in the state saw the bill as a threat to their beliefs.

"Marriage is neither two men nor two women," Paprocki said. "This will radically redefine what marriage is for everybody."

Also objecting on Thursday was the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that says lawmakers who support the bill will strip away religious liberty protections ensured by civil unions.

By approving it, those lawmakers will "declare constituents who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman to be bigots and discriminators," said a letter signed by Society President Thomas Brejcha and Executive Director Peter Breen.

Earlier in the week, Chicago's Cardinal Francis George sent a letter to Catholic parishes saying same-sex marriage undermined the "natural family" between a man and a woman.

A survey of Illinois voters by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling late last year found 47 percent supported gay marriage, 42 percent opposed and 11 percent unsure.

The poll of 500 Illinois voters was conducted from November 26 to 28 and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

(Editing by Greg McCune, James B. Kelleher and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (8)
KbUsch wrote:
Cardinal Francis George’s assertion that same-sex marriage undermines the “natural family” between a man and a woman is an empirical assertion that can be tested in the real world.

And nothing has shown it to be true and everything has shown it to be false. Why make such false assertions?

Jan 04, 2013 12:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
Azza9 wrote:
I have a ‘Why not’ stance on the gay marriage thing, that and I’m not religious so I have no vested interest in either supporting or denying gay marriage. There is no point in getting in the way of the dreams of two consenting adults who are not harming anyone in a real sense.

That being said I would not FORCE men of the cloth to perform gay marriages. Their views may be misguided and very bigoted (IMO at least). But they genuinely think / feel that gay marriage is wrong and will probably never change their mind. I don’t agree with these outdated religious views, but you can’t and shouldn’t force people to perform act/ services that are contrary to their beliefs.
At least if you want to pretend you live in a free country you don’t…

And in the end, do any homosexuals here really want their ceremony to be performed by someone who is silently wishing your union to fail. Who are only performing the ceremony because they where coerced by the government?..

And I’m sure that if you gave them choice to decline, you would still have a good amount of enlightened clergymen willing to perform the marriage. Not all theists are bigoted ignorami, heck some are even nice level headed people. (key word being ‘some’)

Jan 04, 2013 12:43am EST  --  Report as abuse
paulflorez wrote:
@Azza9

No church will be forced to perform same-sex marriages. The Illinois Constitution and the U.S. Constitution both have religious freedom protected in their respective bill of rights. There are still churches that refuse to marry interracial couples, and no one can use the law to force those churches to marry interracial couples. Repeating these religious freedom protections in the laws that restore the equal right of same-sex couples to marriage is purely symbolic.

No church has ever been forced to perform a same-sex marriage. There have been organizations which have been sued for refusing to rent a facility or provide a service as part of a same-sex wedding, but those organization have been organizations that received taxpayer funds. They were not forced to provide for a same-sex wedding, they simply were denied taxpayer funds if they did not follow public anti-discrimination laws. I mean, if you were a taxpayer who happened to be gay, and an organization that received some of your tax money refused to provide you with the same facilities or services that they provided to opposite-sex couples, wouldn’t you want your money back, so to speak? Once again, no church has ever been forced to perform a same-sex marriage.

The anti-gay groups claim they are the victims, but they’re not. The real reasons they are against restoring the right of same-sex couples to marry is
1) Because of animus they have towards gay people. In their own unique way, they hate gay people. They hate families headed by same-sex couples. They condemn gay people and their families every time they speak, and their desire is to have the force of the law behind that condemnation.
2) Because they want to continue to take taxpayer funds, including the taxes paid by Gay Americans, and then provide services to all Americans except those who are gay. Anti-gay hospitals want to take the taxes of Gay Americans but refuse to let those Americans visit their spouse in that hospital. Anti-gay adoption agencies want to take the taxes of Gay Americans and then refuse to place children in need of a home in the homes of those very Americans that are paying for the services. If you’re going to take taxpayer funds, should those funds not require that you obey public anti-discrimination laws? You can always choose to not take taxpayer funds, if your religious beliefs prevent you from doing so.

I belong to a Catholic Community which performs same-sex marriages. Many Episcopal churches and Lutheran churches perform same-sex marriages. There are a plethora of churches which marry same-sex couples, so why would anyone want to go to a church filled with nasty, judgmental people who despise them in order to wed? No one wants to do that.

This is about animus towards gay people in general, and money. The people who hate Gay Americans want to continue to use the power of the law to beat them up and be paid to do so using the very taxes that those Gay Americans pay. In essence, they’ll lose the power and control over the lives of Gay Americans that they’ve received from the government for decades. They claim that makes them victims, but in reality it grants Gay Americans equality and freedom they’ve been denied for a long time.

Jan 04, 2013 2:12am EST  --  Report as abuse
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