Illinois Lawmakers on Verge of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

Illinois is poised to become the 15th state to legalize gay marriage after the House of Representatives today approved same-sex unions.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has promised to sign the bill after the Senate, which already has passed a version of the measure, concurs with a House amendment. It would take effect in June because lawmakers couldn’t muster votes to enact it immediately under Illinois legislative rules.

“What same-sex couples in Illinois want for their families is just what you want for your family,” said Representative Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill. “They want the freedom to protect the ones they love through the security of marriage.”

The 61-54 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.

In Illinois, the approval of the measure in Springfield, the capital, came almost nine months after the Senate passed the bill, with outside lobbying from President Barack 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, though, primarily due to resistance from African-American 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.”

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