Vote on Illinois gay marriage delayed until next week

Rep. Greg Harris (center) and Sen. Heather Steans (right) at the state capital. Photo: Tony Merevick.

Rep. Greg Harris (center) and Sen. Heather Steans (right) at the state capital. Photo: Tony Merevick.

SPRINGFIELD  – The Senate Democrats of the Illinois General Assembly have confirmed that a bill carrying legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage will not be heard this week and will likely be picked up for consideration next week.

The Senate Executive Committee will still consider the measure Thursday, despite the meeting having been delayed several hours.

The Democrats issued a statement following increasing uncertainty around a potential vote on the measure due to senators who are absent for family emergencies, and later said it will be heard next week.

“It is clear that we will need bipartisan support in order to take floor votes on gun safety and marriage equality this week. We will take some time to work on these important issues to advance them in the near future,” read the statement. “The executive committee has been delayed, but we still intend to hold a hearing on marriage equality shortly.”

Proponents on the ground here emphasize that despite the delay, the bill is not dead.

“Every piece of legislation has bumps in the road due to unforeseen circumstances,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director or The Civil Rights Agenda. “We may have to delay the vote, but the important thing to realize is that the bill has not been pulled completely.”

Following the news of the absent lawmakers, activists and lawmakers began recounting potential “yes” votes in the Illinois Senate and regroup their efforts to push the bill during the General Assembly’s lame duck session, which ends Jan. 8.

Two senators, Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Lake Villa) and James Clayborne (D-Belleville), have been called away from Springfield due to family emergencies, according to sources on the ground at the statehouse. Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston), another potential “yes” vote is on vacation and will not return for the session.

The absences, paired with intense opposition from local religious groups like the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Conference of Illinois, has left Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate without the 3o necessary votes to move the bill forward, according to Rick Garcia the Equal Marriage Project director at TCRA.

The significant setback follows a failed vote to bring marriage equality legislation to the Senate Executive Committee Wednesday night, also due to several absent senators.

If approved by the committee Thursday, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act — carried as an amendment to House Bill 4963 — would eventually move to the Senate floor for full vote, which is key to the legislation’s success in the lame duck session.

The House could potentially take up the bill for consideration when it returns Jan. 5-6 as a last ditch effort for the bill, but some question if that is a viable option.

“Things can change at any moment,” said Rick Garcia, a longtime LGBT rights activist and Equal Marriage Project director at TCRA.

Sen. Steans, the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate could not be reached for comment and Rep. Greg Harris, the chief sponsor of the legislation in he House, declined to comment for this story.

This is a breaking story and will be updated as new information becomes available.