By Meredith Colias
Supporters of gay marriage are a step closer to bringing legislation to a Senate floor vote by February 14.
A Senate committee voted 9-5 today to approve Senate Bill 10, which would legalize gay marriage. The same committee approved a similar measure during the lame-duck session of the last General Assembly, but it lacked support to pass the full Senate. Senate President John Cullerton told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that he wants the Senate to pass a bill by Valentine’s Day.
Rev. Susan Anderson-Hurdle, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, testified in support of the measure. She told the committee, “Those of us who do believe in marriage equality should have the right to perform marriage ceremonies.”
Hurdle said it is important for the state to protect religious freedoms without discriminating against same-sex couples “based on the religious beliefs of others.”
Critics said the bill did not do enough to protect some churches’ religious rights. Pastor Keith Williams of the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church in Country Club Hills said he opposes the measure as a “morality issue.” He told the committee, “We have to draw a line…to what the [Bible] says.”
Sponsor Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, said the measure does not require religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, said churches have been living under civil unions without facing widespread legal challenges from gay couples.
“The sky is not falling with this measure,” he said.
Steans, who sponsored the bill that failed in January, says she is “cautiously optimistic” that she has enough support for its passage and hopes to call the bill in the Senate sometime next week. “You never know until you are actually pushing those buttons,” she said.