On a Valentine's Day vote, the Illinois Senate passed a bill that will expand the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The Senate vote fell mostly along party lines. One Republican supported the measure and three Democrats opposed it. The gay marriage bill will now go to the Illinois House of Representatives where Democrats hold a 71-47 advantage. Tweet the news: Tweet
Governor Pat Quinn praised the bill's passage through committee in last week's State of the State address and promised to sign the bill into law. Quinn's signature would make Illinois the tenth state to recognize same-sex marriage. Tweet at @GovernorQuinn: Tweet
Titled the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act," the bill defines marriage as a union between "two persons" and not exclusively between one man and one woman.
One of the bill's chief co-sponsors, Senator Heather Steans (Chicago), praised its passage as "a vote for the history books." Perhaps appealing to the state's conservatives, Steans called marriage "a vital social institution," which "brings stability to our society." She also said it "promotes the values conservatives prize" in formalizing homosexual relationships.
However, there was still contentious debate over its passage. Senator Kyle McCarter, a Republican from downstate, repeatedly questioned Steans about the other ramifications of the legislation. McCarter asked what the bill would do, "in regards to what our children are taught" in schools. The complaint grew out of the perception that homosexuality was being taught in Massachusetts schools after the Bay State legalized gay marriage in 2006.
Steans said the bill "makes no change to any curriculum in any school."
The bill includes language that would not compel churches or any formal religious institutions to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. However, opponents of the bill believe that more latitude should be given concerning other businesses so that they may object to providing services for gay weddings on moral grounds.
McCarter extended his grievances against the bill:
"Businesses will be affected. Bed and breakfasts, florists, all those that are wedding-related, will be affected. They will choose to, most of them, dissolve their businesses. That's what happened in other states." Tweet at @SenatorMcCarter: Tweet
It remains unknown how far the potential effects of same-sex marriage may be. At least two bed and breakfasts have faced complaints with the Illinois Human Rights Commission over their refusal to hosts same-sex civil union ceremonies.
Same-sex marriage still has one more hurdle to cross: the Illinois House of Representatives. While Democrats control a majority, passage is not yet a guarantee.