MORRIS – Illinois legislators legalized same-sex marriage in a historic vote this week – but lawmakers who represent Grundy County residents were not among those in favor of legalization.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and state Reps. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, and Kate Cloonen, D-Kankakee, voted against the measure, according to vote totals posted on the Illinois Legislature’s website. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, who also represents part of the county, voted in favor of it.
Although the Democratic Party embraced same-sex marriage as part of the party’s platform during last year’s election, Cloonen said she voted against the measure because she was representing the beliefs of her constituents.
“I talked to a lot of people in my district. I went door to door. I met many people one on one,” Cloonen said. “Although there were some in favor of same-sex marriage, I would say the majority was not.”
Anthony said he opposed the legislation because there are not enough adequate protections for religious institutions, and Rezin voted against the bill because of her personal stance on marriage.
“In my last two elections, I was very honest with people that I support traditional marriage between a man and a woman,” Rezin said. “I think it is important that my vote reflects what I ran on.”
The House voted to pass the bill 61-54 – with only one vote more than was needed – and the Senate gave it final approval in a 32-31 vote, making Illinois the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gov. Pat Quinn has said he intends to sign it into law Nov. 20. Same-sex couples will be able to legally wed as of June 2014 once it’s signed.
The Rev. Luanne Bettisch of Peace Lutheran Church in Morris said she is pleased with decision for marriage equality.
“I believe Jesus came to level the playing field by claiming that all people are beloved children of God, regardless of race, gender or social standing,” Bettisch said.
Peace Lutheran is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which formally approved in 2009 same-sex marriage.
Bettisch said she is unclear whether her church will perform same-sex ceremonies.
“That’s up to the congregation,” Bettisch said. “My prayer would be that by embracing marriage equality we are opening doors for all people to feel welcome and loved by God.”
The Rev. Steve Heilmann of Grace Lutheran Church in Morris said he and the congregation oppose same-sex marriage, and will be amending the church’s constitution to forbid same-sex ceremonies from taking place in the church’s facility.
“The law doesn’t force any pastor to marry anybody they don’t want to so I’m personally protected,” Heilmann said. “We aren’t against homosexuals, but marriage for them is just against nature.”
The Rev. Caleb Counterman of Faith Baptist Church in Morris said his church already has measures in its constitution that prevent same-sex ceremonies in its facility.
“We’re not going to let social dictates have a bearing on what God’s dictates are,” Counterman said.
Faith Baptist Church opens its doors to everyone but has prerequisites for those who want to become church members, including defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This would prohibit any same-sex couples from being church members.
“That might not be the most popular position, but we are not going to shy away from what we believe is right in God’s eyes,” Counterman said.