Illinois took a giant step closer toward legalized same-sex marriage with the passage of the marriage equality bill – SB 10 – in the Illinois Senate on Thursday afternoon.
The Senate passed the bill – with 34 in favor, 21 against and two abstentions. The bill still has one hurdle left to clear when it goes before the Illinois House where it needs 60 votes to pass.
See how each member of the Illinois Senate voted, by clicking on the pdf.
If passed, the state law defining marriage would be changed from an act between a man and a woman, to two people.
State Sen. Bill Cunningham (18th District) said he initially had reservations about the bill after attempts to pass it during last month's veto session. The Beverly Democrat brought his concerns to SB 10’s sponsor, Chicago Democrat Sen. Heather Steans (7th District), representing the city's Far North Side.
“My main reservations were a fear that the law could open up churches and other religious organizations to lawsuits if they refused to provide church halls or other facilities outside of the church that they owned to same-sex couples for a reception or anniversary party,” Cunningham said.
Steans acknowledged it could be potential problem and added an amendment to the bill that places-of-worship and facilities owned by religious organizations would not be forced to violate their personally held beliefs by performing same-sex marriage ceremonies or providing facilities related to the ceremony.
“That was a concern voiced to me by a number of individuals and churches,” Cunningham said. “By virtue of the fact the churches may provide public accommodations to Alcoholics Anonymous, the Boy Scouts or an anniversary party, they were afraid the law would view them as a banquet facility. It required an amendment clarifying that this is not the intent of the law.”
When Steans agreed to make the change—Thursday’s bill was amended clarifying that its sole intent was to afford legalized marriage to same-sex couples—Cunningham said he agreed to support it.
With the first major hurdle cleared for same-sex marriage, the bill next needs to collect at least 60 votes to pass. Illinois House members are due back in session next week, but Cunningham said he wasn’t sure if the bill would make it to the House floor for a vote.
“I don’t know if they’re going to vote on it next week,” Cunningham said. “I got the impression from speaking to [House sponsor Greg Harris] that he had to lay more groundwork before he called it next week.”
Evergreen Park Democrat State Rep. Kelly Burke (36th District), said public opinion in her district--which includes Evergreen Park, Hometown, and parts of Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Hickory Hills, Palos Hills and some of Chicago’s 18th, 19th and 21st wards—has been split down the middle.
“There are a lot of people in favor and a lot of people very much opposed,” she said. “It’s not heavily one way of the other.”
Burke said she has spoken to parents outside of her district who want their gay children to have same marriage rights as their straight children.
“I would imagine now that it’s gotten the vote and made it through one stage I’ll be hearing from a lot more people,” Burke said.
She says she hasn’t yet made up her mind how she will vote on the bill should it be called to the House floor. Burke cited Catholic Charities’ having to drop its state-funded adoption and foster care programs because the civil unions law failed to include a religious exemption.
“I thought [Catholic Charities] did a pretty good job doing those adoptions,” Burke said. “What else lies out there that could at risk? What are the unintended consequences of this bill?”
This story has been updated with new information.