By Meredith Colias
After the Illinois House took up a major pension vote today, Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters that a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has gained some ground on its way to a final vote.
Last month Madigan said that Senate Bill 10 was about a dozen votes short of the 60 votes required to pass the bill. “We’re a little closer, but we’re not yet there. But we’re a little closer,” he said.
The Senate passed the bill on Valentine’s Day. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsors the bill in the House, says he is waiting to know for certain that it will pass before bringing it up for a final vote.
Gov. Pat Quinn has been supportive of the legislation and said he will sign it when it gets to his desk.
If the bill passes, Illinois will join 10 other states that have legalized gay marriage in recent years. Rhode Island recently became the latest state, joining all other New England states that had already said "I do" to legalization of same-sex marriage.
Harris said he is working to explain the legislation and to address the concerns of those who are opposed or undecided.
Under the legislation, religious institutions would be exempt from performing same-sex ceremonies. Protections were added to the Senate version to allow churches to also refuse to host wedding receptions on church property.
“We’re talking about what the bill does,” Harris said. “It’s very clear, and it says it in black and white. I think there are a lot of red herrings being thrown out there. You’ve seen this in every state that this has come up. ... Scare tactics are scare tactics, but they are not true.” One Republican, Sen. Jason Barickman, a Champaign Republican voted for the bill when it passed the Senate. Two House Republicans, Rep. Ronald Sendack from Downers Grove and Rep. Ed Sullivan from Mundelein, have publicly said they would vote for the bill.
Persistent opposition remains to the bill. Ralph Rivera, a lobbyist for the Illinois Family Institute, said he is willing to wait out the push because he believes supporters do not have enough votes for the bill to ultimately pass. “It’s a lot to overcome,” he said.
But Harris is optimistic he will gain enough votes for the bill to pass. “Everyone I’ve talked to is very mindful of the fact in the past two years, public opinion has shifted so dramatically on this issue,” he said.
“The shift has come from people saying, the time is right, we just need to get this done.”