(MCT) — SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gay couples would be allowed to marry in Illinois under legislation that cleared a first hurdle Tuesday, setting up a key state Senate vote supporters say they want on or before Valentine’s Day.
Despite that optimism, the fate of same-sex marriage legislation is unclear. Proponents note there are more Democrats in the newly inaugurated General Assembly and say prospects for passage are improved over the unsuccessful effort in last month’s lame-duck session. But questions remain about whether there will be enough support, particularly in the House.
The heavily lobbied and divisive issue advanced on a 9-5 partisan roll call of the Democratic-dominated Senate Executive Committee. Republicans and religious leaders questioned whether the bill provides enough protections of freedom of religion for churches and individuals who disagree with the very notion that same-sex marriages should be allowed.
Sponsoring Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said making gay marriage legal in Illinois is necessary to provide “equal protection” under laws for same-sex couples because civil unions fall short.
Bloomington’s Danielle Cook, with her partner Suzie Hutton, testified the legislation is needed to “make our lives more complete.” Cook said she has a civil union but that it is not fully recognized in social ways with the good wishes and congratulations that come with marriage or in employment settings.
The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle of Good Shepherd Church in Romeoville said she is straight, married, a mother of three and a Christian pastor who sees the legislation as a “matter of legal, civil and human rights.”
But the Rev. Keith Williams of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church of Country Club Hills said he was in “vehement opposition” because same-sex marriage goes against basic tenets of the Bible.
“This bill puts the state very much in the church’s business, and I think we find ourselves deteriorating to a level of immorality that will lead this nation to a high level of judgment,” Williams testified.
Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, maintained churches will be “dragged into a court” until judges have “delineated every line possible” on religious freedom and public accommodation. Proponents said current laws would prevent a major flurry of lawsuits from being filed.