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State Senate votes to allow gay marriage

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The Illinois State Senate recently voted 34 to 21 in favor of allowing gay couples to marry, with the measure receiving four more votes than the bare minimum it needed to pass. Any upcoming vote in the House is likely to be more contested and difficult to win, but some politicians have said they expect the House to pass the bill in a matter of weeks. If that happens, Governor Quinn has agreed to sign the bill into law, which would make Illinois the latest state to officially legalize gay marriage.

The one Republican to vote for the bill hailed it as a step toward the government giving citizens the freedom to live their life as they choose. More and more Republicans are adopting this line of thinking, including the Illinois Republican Chairman Pat Brady, who framed the policy of allowing a same sex couple to marry as a civil rights issue. Many legislators are still against allowing gay marriage, though, on the basis of moral or religious grounds, or out of fear of how their constituents might react.

Still, proponents of the bill had to make some changes to garner even the single Republican vote. Prior to taking it to the floor, supporters sought to allay some of their opponents' concerns by attaching an amendment that would prevent lawsuits against religious organizations that refuse to host gay marriage ceremonies.

Illinois has already recognized civil unions between same-sex couples for two years, but civil unions do not carry all the rights and privileges that marriage does. Contractual life partner agreements in conjunction with civil unions can help lessen this gap to a great extent, but some rights, such as being able to file taxes jointly, remain obtainable only through marriage.

Although most of the Democratic senators voted for the bill, three voted against it and two merely voted "present." Two more Democrats did not attend the vote.

Source: ABC News, "Illinois Senate votes to legalize gay marriage," Sara Burnett, Feb. 14, 2013

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