Lawmakers to reintroduce Illinois same-sex marriage bill

Photo: Tony Merevick.

ILLINOIS CAPITOL. PHOTO: TONY MEREVICK / CHICAGO PHOENIX

SPRINGFIELD — The chief sponsors of legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois plan to reintroduce the bill Wednesday shortly after the start of the 98th General Assembly, according to one of its chief sponsors.

Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate, said Tuesday the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act will be simultaneously introduced in both the House and the Senate shortly after newly-elected lawmakers are sworn in to the legislature.

The move comes as no surprise to advocates and opponents tracking the bill, as Steans and its chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Greg Harris, previously said they will reintroduce the bill almost immediately upon the start of the new General Assembly after time ran out on efforts to bring the bill up for full vote during the 97th General Assembly’s lame duck legislative session, ending Tuesday.

On Thursday, hopes for the measure’s passage during the lame duck were bolstered after the Senate Executive Committee approved the legislation in an 8-5 vote on party lines. However, the bill never made it to the full Senate or House floors for vote because the sponsors lacked the time and votes to ensure its passage.

Nonetheless, Steans views the committee approval a major victory for same-sex marriage in Illinois and anticipates it becoming law in the coming months.

“Last week, the Senate Executive Committee made history by approving same-sex marriage and gave our efforts incredible momentum,” Steans said. “With the full support of Senate President John Cullerton, I am confident legislators will grant all Illinois couples the freedom to marry this year.”

Harris, too, believes Illinois is one step closer to recognizing gay and lesbian nuptials under the law.

“We are one step closer to equality in the Land of Lincoln,” he said. “The bills we filed today will treat all couples equally under the law. We are going full steam ahead on this.”

Proponent advocate Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, confirmed the move was widely expected by TCRA and other organizations in favor and against the bill.

Martinez as well as Rick Garcia, a longtime LGBT rights activist in Illinois and TCRA’s Equal Marriage Project said they will continue advocating for the passage of the bill while they are on the ground in Springfield this week.

“We look forward to working with the new General Assembly and getting the bill passed very early on,” Martinez said.

Steans told Chicago Phoenix she is excited to bring the bill up for vote in the new legislative session and anticipates discussion on language of the bill among members of the Senate and the House as it moves forward.

In addition, Steans hopes Illinois will become the tenth state to approve the recognition of gay and lesbian marriages.

Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages. Three states — Washington, Maine and Maryland — approved same-sex marriage ballot measures in the November elections.