(Updates with governor signing gay marrage into law, quote from
By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO Nov 20 Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on
Wednesday signed into law a bill extending marriage rights to
same-sex couples, making the home state of President Barack
Obama the 16th to allow such unions.
The Illinois law, which takes effect June 1, is the latest
in a series of recent victories for gay rights, coming after
Hawaii's governor signed gay marriage into law last week and
after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie dropped his legal
opposition to the unions in October.
"This new law is an epic victory for equal rights in
America," Quinn said before signing the bill in a ceremony
attended by about 3,000 people that included Chicago Mayor Rahm
Emanuel and state leaders.
"Illinois is moving forward," Quinn said. "We are a model
for our country. If the Land of Lincoln can achieve marriage
equality, so can every other state in the nation."
Illinois state senators voted to legalize gay marriage in
February, and the state House followed suit by a slim margin
earlier in November.
Illinois currently allows civil unions, which gay rights
activists have said does not go far enough.
But the proposal had been resisted by some African-American
Democratic lawmakers who were under pressure from outspoken
black Protestant churches to oppose it. The leadership of the
Catholic Church in Illinois also opposed the proposal.
A Catholic bishop in Illinois, Thomas J. Paprocki of
Springfield, said he planned an exorcism ritual to protest the
law at the same time as the governor's planned signing on
Opponents had expressed concern that under the proposed gay
marriage law, religious organizations that declined to allow
their facilities to be used for gay marriages could face
lawsuits. The amended version of the bill provides safeguards
for religious organizations.
A year ago, only six states - Massachusetts, Vermont, New
Hampshire, New York, Connecticut and Iowa - plus the District of
Columbia recognized same-sex marriage, but the number has since
more than doubled.
Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first to extend
marriage rights to same-sex couples by popular vote with passage
of ballot initiatives last November. Gay marriage also became
legal this year in California, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode
On the other side of the issue, voters in more than two
dozen states have approved state constitutional provisions that
define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, according
to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bob