Illinois became the 15th state to endorse gay marriage after lawmakers sent a bill to Democratic Governor Pat Quinn for his promised signature.
The House of Representatives today passed the measure authorizing gay marriages, to take effect June 1. That required the Senate, which in February had approved a slightly different version, to agree before sending the measure to Quinn.
President Barack Obama, a former member of the Illinois Senate, praised the vote in a statement from the White House.
“Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours -- and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law,” he said.
The vote advances the momentum of the national gay rights movement. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate agreed to vote on banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Supreme Court this year struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prevented the federal government from providing benefits to same-sex couples.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage, with legislatures in Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota approving bills this year. A New Jersey judge cleared the way in a Sept. 27 ruling.
Passage of the Illinois bill means that 35 percent of the nation’s population lives in states where gay marriage has been authorized.
Quinn, who stood in the rear of the Illinois House chamber while the bill was debated, hailed the vote as an event that puts the state “on the right side of history.”
Its approval in Springfield came almost nine months after the Senate passed the bill, with lobbying from President Obama and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who represents the state and is the chamber’s majority whip. The measure had stalled in the House, primarily due to resistance from black lawmakers in Chicago.
“There are many people in this state who believe in the fundamental, traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman,” said Representative David Harris, a Republican from the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. “Those people are not homophobic, they are not bigoted, they are not biased. They are simply ordinary folks.”
Representative Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill, said in the debate that “what same-sex couples in Illinois want for their families is just what you want for your family. They want the freedom to protect the ones they love through the security of marriage.”