Lawmakers in Springfield, Ill., took one step closer toward marriage equality on Tuesday by approving legislation in the first Senate hurdle.

After nearly two hours of witness testimony and questioning from Republican senators, the legislation advanced through the Democratic-dominated Senate Executive Committee with a 9-5 vote.


Bill sponsor Sen. Heather Steans addresses the Senate Executive Committee on Tuesday.

“I applaud my colleagues for their vote today,” said Senator Heather Steans, who is sponsoring the bill. “All eyes are on Illinois as the next state expected to include gay and lesbian in the freedom to marry.”

The bill now moves to the Senate floor where Senate President John Cullerton hopes to have it passed on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

Republicans intensely inquired about the language of the bill, particularly the protections and exemptions offered to religious institutions and which types of facilities constitute as public accommodations.

According to Christopher Clark, the Senior Staff Attorney in the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal, who testified on behalf of the bill, it’s a matter of the Illinois Human Rights Act, not this one.

“Questions on whether or not something is a public accommodation is not relevant to this law,” Clark told Chicago Phoenix. “That will be done through the pre-existing Illinois Human Rights Act.”

“Nothing in this act forces a church to perform a same-sex marriage,” he continued. “No minister, no church has to perform a same-sex marriage.”

The attacks against an issue of the legislation that has already been pre-determined prove that opponents are grasping, which gives hope to advocates of same-sex marriage.

“I’m so thrilled with the vote,” said Rick Garcia, a longtime LGBT rights activist and director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project at The Civil Rights Agenda. “Christopher Clark did an excellent job responding to the questions because all they wanted to do was talk about the Human Rights Act.”




Brittny Drye is the senior editor at Equally Wed, the nation’s premier online magazine for gay and lesbian weddings and honeymoons. Follow her on Twitter @BrittnyDrye.