On a mostly party-line vote of 34 to 21, with two abstentions, the Illinois Senate Thursday afternoon approved legislation to authorize same-sex marriage in the state.
The measure now goes to the House, where opposition is believed to be somewhat stronger.
Passage came after a two-hour final debate filled with some strong words on both sides, with foes generally arguing that religious rights would be trampled, and the other side depicting the issue as a matter of ending discrimination.
"People have been discriminated against by our own laws," said Sen. Martin Sandovol, D-Chicago, a former seminarian. "This is a great day. . . .We represent all of the people."
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, responded that not only religious rights but also those of people who do not want to participate in homosexual unions would be endangered. He predicted that florists, bed-and-breakfast inns and others would shut down rather than serve gay couples. "Marriage is meant to between man and woman," he said.
But majority Democrats replied with tales and anecdotes of their own.
Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston talked about how he discussed this with his 4-year-old. Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago said he, too, discriminated as a young man until he realized that "there was a time in America when I'd be considered three-fifths of a man." Chief sponsor Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago said she learned "how much hate is out there" in working on the bill with the openly gay chief House sponsor, Chicago Democrat Greg Harris.
Thirty votes were needed for Senate passage. If the bill passes the House and is signed into law, Illinois would become the 10th state to allow gay marriage. (Here's the roll call.)
Senate President John Cullerton, a bill backer, intentionally scheduled the vote for today, Valentine's Day.
Sponsors have not yet laid out a timetable for House consideration. The measure has the strong backing of Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Thank God......it's Friday!!!