Marriage-equality supporters are expected to try again to move landmark same-sex marriage legislation through the Senate, after a proposal hit a procedural snag on the first day of the Legislature’s lame duck session.
Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, has said she has enough Senate votes for approval of the measure, which would remove from state law a prohibition on marriage between two people of the same sex. But she also said the timing of a vote is key to ensure enough supporters were in attendance.
If a measure becomes law, Illinois would become the 10th state to approve same-sex marriage, a proposal made just 18 months after the state recognized civil unions and one riding momentum from several events including public encouragement from President Barack Obama.
Pressure was applied from both sides Wednesday, with a gay TV star campaigning in favor of marriage equality and more than 1,000 religious leaders, from Catholics to Muslims, signing a letter opposing it.
Proponents say the legislation would not impinge on religious beliefs. Religious organizations would not have to recognize or consecrate gay marriage.
But some 1,700 state religious leaders derided that claim in a letter sent to every Illinois lawmaker.
"The real peril: If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations — regardless of deeply held beliefs — will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations," said the letter, penned by leaders of Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon, Anglican, and Islamic faiths.
Gov. Pat Quinn supports both plans and has said he wants a same-sex marriage bill sent to him from the legislative session scheduled through Jan. 9, the final days of the 97th General Assembly. It includes dozens of lame-duck lawmakers who won’t be sworn into the next assembly and thus have more freedom to back contentious issues.