Quinn hopes Illinois marriage equality bill goes forward next month

Photo: Roy Focker 12.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters Monday he hopes Illinois lawmakers will send a marriage equality bill to his desk during the early January lame duck session.

Lately, LGBT rights activists have been signaling that a bill will be called to vote during the brief period of time before the newly-elected state legislators are sworn in Jan. 9 — as soon as they know it has enough votes to pass.

“I hope that bill goes forward,” Quinn said when asked about the bill, reports the Chicago Tribune. “It’s the House that probably the key arena at this time, and I think we’ll see how the members look at that issue. They should study it carefully and vote their conscience.”

While Quinn’s comments come as same-sex couples begin to marry in Washington and on the heels of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to take up two cases challenging anti-gay marriage laws, the top priority for legislators in Illinois is state pension reform.

Three states — Washington, Maine and Maryland — approved marriage equality via popular vote in the Nov. 6 general election, joining Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut in allowing gay marriage.

Illinois law currently recognizes marriage as only between a man and a woman. Same-sex couples, though, can join in civil unions and receive many of the same benefits. Quinn signed the law legalizing civil unions early last year.

Anthony Martinez, executive director at The Civil Rights Agenda, a Chicago-based LGBT rights and policy organization working with legislators in Springfield to pass the bill, applauds the governor’s support and said, lame duck session or not, Illinois will get it done.

Supporters in Springfield are constantly counting votes to gauge support and Martinez said that the bill’s success hinges on educating lawmakers and community members calling their legislators to express support for equality.

“The time for marriage in Illinois is now,” he told Chicago Phoenix. “It’s a matter of when, not if. We’ll get it done.”

A spokesperson for Quinn confirmed his comments Monday and reiterated his full support for marriage equality.