SPRINGFIELD, IL, February 15, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The heavily Democratic Illinois Senate voted mostly along party lines Thursday to approve a bill redefining marriage in the state to include homosexual couples. The vote was 34-21, with three Democrats voting against the bill and only one Republican voting for it. Two additional Democrats voted “present.”
Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who is Catholic, has been publicly urging passage of a same-sex “marriage” bill for months, despite his Church’s strong opposition. If the bill passes the House for Quinn’s signature, Illinois would become the nation’s tenth state to allow same-sex “marriages,” along with the District of Columbia.
“Today, we are one step closer to marriage equality in Illinois,” said Governor Quinn on Thursday. “Couples across Illinois have even more reason today to celebrate their love for each other, thanks to the hard work of committed advocates and lawmakers. This historic legislation will strengthen our state by allowing all committed couples to enjoy the same legal protections and benefits of marriage.”
President Barack Obama has thrown his public support behind the move to legalize gay marriage in his adopted home state, issuing a recent White House statement saying that if he were still in the Illinois legislature, he would vote for it.
The legislation will now move to the House, but it was unclear when the issue might be taken up there, or whether it was likely to pass. Although the House is also under Democratic control, support for legalized same-sex “marriage” in that chamber is said to be less robust.
In addition to the expected Republican opposition, it is likely that some black Democratic legislators from Chicago will vote against the measure under pressure from a number of black pastors who have joined Illinois Catholic bishops in expressing strong opposition to state-sanctioned gay “marriage.”
Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Peoria Catholic Diocese has planned a “lobby day” in Springfield next Wednesday and is urging Catholic faithful to express their opposition to the bill in person. The Illinois Family Institute (IFI) is mobilizing Evangelical and other Christians to join the protest.
“If we hope to defeat this bill in the Illinois House and maintain a sufficient level of opposition to this proposal, we must have a strong showing next week,” the group said in a statement.
“If people of faith allow this bill to pass, churches will be forced to change their hiring practices and allow same-sex marriage ceremonies if they rent their facilities,” said IFI spokeswoman Kathy Valente. “Individuals and businesses owners will be subjected to lawsuits and regulatory action if they refuse to condone the ‘new’ understanding of marriage. And children will be taught in school they can marry a man or a woman when they grow up.”
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Thursday’s bill included an amendment intended to reassure religious groups that ministers would not be forced to solemnize same-sex “marriages,” nor be forced to allow same-sex couples to use their churches or halls for celebrations – an amendment that Republican Senator Jason Barickman of Bloomington said convinced him to change his vote in favor of the bill. Barickman had originally opposed the bill out of concerns about religious freedom, but he said he believed the amendment did an “adequate job” of protecting churches and other religious entities. His last-minute reversal elicited gasps throughout the Senate chamber – and sustained applause from Democrats.
However, opponents of the measure, including Senator Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, expressed doubts about the amendment’s sufficiency. Righter repeatedly questioned the bill’s sponsor, Senator Heather Steans, D-Chicago, in floor debate about how she thought the legislation would affect religious groups.
“I was trying to find out what Reverend Mathews back home is going to have to do in order to make sure he doesn’t expose the facility to being a place of public accommodation,” said Righter.
Righter remained unconvinced that the bill would not cause legal problems for churches and religious groups that oppose gay marriage.
“In the time I spent talking to her, I raised a minute fraction of the questions that are going to be asked, and the examples that they are going to face in dealing with this issue,” Righter told the Paxton Record. “Literally we would have to talk for a week about the potential problems. That’s what you have to do on bills like this.”
Senator Bill Haine, D-Alton, crossed party lines to vote against the proposal. He, along with Rep. Daniel Beiser, D-Alton, has proposed amending the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
“We are changing an institution that is revered or held sacred…by thousands of people,” Haine said.