Illinois bill to legalize gay marriage stalls

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois Fri May 31, 2013 10:29pm EDT

Theresa Volpe and her partner Mercedes Santos wait for the start of an an Illinois Senate Executive Committee hearing on same-sex marriages at the State Legislature in Springfield, Illinois, January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

Theresa Volpe and her partner Mercedes Santos wait for the start of an an Illinois Senate Executive Committee hearing on same-sex marriages at the State Legislature in Springfield, Illinois, January 3, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Reuters) - A bill to make Illinois the 13th state in the country to recognize same-sex marriage failed to win final approval on Friday before the state legislature adjourns until the fall.

The measure, which the state Senate approved in February, did not come up for a vote in the state House of Representatives before it adjourned. Its chief sponsor vowed to seek a vote on the bill later this year.

The bill would have made Illinois the third Midwestern state to allow same-sex couples to marry, after Minnesota and Iowa.

Minnesota lawmakers approved same-sex marriage earlier in May and Iowa allows same-sex couples to marry under a state Supreme Court ruling in 2009.

"Several of my colleagues have indicated that they would not be willing to cast a vote on this bill today," Representative Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, said in announcing on the House floor that no vote would be taken.

"I have never been sadder to accept such a request, but I have to keep my eye, as we all must, on the ultimate prize," Harris said.

Legislative sources said the bill may have gotten caught up in the end-of-session scramble to negotiate compromises on state pension reforms and the expansion of gambling.

Harris said lawmakers he talked to had asked for time to talk to their constituents and told him they would return in November prepared to support the legislation.

"We will be back and we will be voting on this bill in this legislature, in this room," Harris said. "Until that day, I apologize to the families who were hoping to wake up tomorrow as full and equal citizens of this state."

Illinois state senators voted on Valentine's Day, February 14, to legalize gay marriage, but the issue had not been brought to a vote in the state House because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats, especially in African-American districts. Democrats control both legislative chambers.

The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement that Friday's development was "a prime example of why the U.S. Supreme Court must rule in favor of full marriage equality nationwide to ensure the security and welfare of these and countless other American families aren't left to chance in future political battles."

Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat who had said he would sign the bill, said he was disappointed the state House "in the Land of Lincoln did not pass a historic measure that would have guaranteed equal rights and benefits for all citizens."

Gay rights activists have won a series of victories in the past year, with same-sex marriage approved in November by voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state and in May by legislatures in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota.

Same-sex couples are also allowed to marry in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.

(Reporting by Joanne von Alroth in Springfield, Karen Pierog in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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