With just days left before the Illinois General Assembly ends its regular session, activists are scrambling to get a gay marriage bill to the finish line.
Supporters have racked up an impressive number of high-profile victories in recent months, including adding three states to the marriage equality column through the ballot box in November – Washington, Maine and Maryland – and an equal number through legislative votes held this month, the latest state being Minnesota. Wedding bells will also soon ring for gay couples in Rhode Island and Delaware.
(Another victory came earlier this year in Colorado, where lawmakers approved a civil unions law, possibly the best outcome for marriage equality supporters until a constitutional amendment is repealed.)
With Democrats in control of both chambers of the General Assembly and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn in support, the move from civil unions to full marriage wasn’t expected to come down to the wire in Illinois. After all, Rep. Greg Harris, the sponsor of the civil unions bill in the House, committed his support for a marriage bill even before the civil unions law took effect in 2011.
The marriage bill already has had one false start. Last year during a brief lame-duck session the bill was added to the agenda in the Senate but never came up for a vote. Its champion in the chamber, Democratic Senator Heather Steans, said that time was the main factor behind the decision to postpone a vote.
Six weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, the Senate approved the measure. A House panel agreed a month later, leaving only one hurdle for the marriage bill to clear.