Updated: Same-sex marriage bill on way to Quinn
SPRINGFIELD -- With great drama and lengthy debate, lawmakers Tuesday sent to Gov. Pat Quinn a bill making Illinois the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Quinn, who was on the House floor for much of the two-plus hours of debate, supports gay marriage and is virtually certain to sign the bill. Gay marriage would become legal in Illinois on June 1, 2014.
Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, was the only East Central Illinois representative to vote for the same-sex marriage bill (SB 10). It passed the House, 61-54.
She arrived during the debate on the legislation and hurriedly left the Capitol after it. Her husband, Eric Jakobsson, explained that the couple wanted to be with their son, who is at a hospice center in Mattoon.
All other area lawmakers in the House -- Republican Reps. Chad Hays of Catlin, Josh Harms of Watseka, Adam Brown of Champaign, Bill Mitchell of Forsyth and Brad Halbrook of Charleston -- voted against the same-sex marriage bill.
Nearly all of the House votes for gay marriage came from Democrats, although Reps. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein, Ron Sandack of Downers Grove and Tom Cross of Oswego voted for it. Cross, the former House minority leader, is the likely Republican candidate for state treasurer next year. He probably will oppose Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, who also voted for the bill.
The bill, which was amended in the House Tuesday, needed to go back to the Senate Tuesday for a second vote. The original bill was approved Feb. 14 with all Democratic votes but one, Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington.
In Tuesday's vote, Barickman -- who was subject to criticism from some Republicans for his vote -- again voted yes. The Senate vote was 32-21, with all other area senators except Frerichs voting no.
Debate on the legislation was heartfelt on both sides.
Opponents argued the legislation would strike at the religious liberties of those who support traditional marriage.
"If this bill passes I hope that the supporters of the bill will remember that there are many people in this great state who do not think that this is the right way to go," said Rep. Davis Harris, R-Arlington Heights. "There are many people in this state who believe in the fundamental, traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Those people are not homophobic. They are not bigoted. They are not biased. They are simply ordinary folks who hold values that they hold dearly."
Rep. David Reis, R-St. Marie, said the legislation grants religious exemptions only to priests, pastors and rabbis. He said the bill would require wedding photographers, bakers and others to work at same-sex marriages even if they are morally opposed to the concept.
"Our Constitution is about all of the people. Where are the religious rights for those of us and those people of Illinois who think that this is wrong?" Reis said. "Sure the priests and pastors and rabbis wil be exempt. But what about judges? I've had three judges in my district call up and say, 'David, there's not a facility in your district that's going to perform these ceremonies. They're going to call me. Where are my individual religious freedoms?'"
Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Edwardsville, said the Constitution is partly based on the Scriptures "and yet I've heard nothing today about the Scriptures. The only thing I've heard about are human rights so I guess we have walked away, backed away from the heritage of this nation, which we seem to do quite regularly."
But House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, quoted Pope Francis, who recently said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and he has good will, who am I to judge?"
Madigan, a Catholic, added, "For those that just happen to be gay, living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal, who am I to judge that they should be illegal? Who is the government to judge they should be illegal? For me that's the reason to support this bill."
Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who is gay, urged her colleagues "to do the right thing.
"Today the right thing is to tell my family, and the families here today watching us, and those kids wondering if it really does get better, that you are valued, you are equal," she said.
Sullivan, one of the few Republicans to support the bill, said two of his relatives, including his mother-in-law, are homosexual.
"I believe that voting for marriage equality is the right thing to do. If I vote against this bill, a bill I believe in, how do I face my children? How do I tell them that there is something wrong with their grandma?" he said. "Well, I can't and I won't."
Supporters of gay marriage thought they had enough support to pass a bill in the House last May, but fell short on the final day of the spring session. Advocates picked up votes over the summer and fall, including Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat, who supported the measure on Tuesday.
"I am voting for marriage equality today because it's the right thing to do," said Gordon-Booth, who is black. "I am voting with a strong sense of confidence because I know that enhancing the civil rights of others does not diminish the civil rights of anyone in this room, or anyone in this state."