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Illinois marriage equality bill to be considered in State Senate Wednesday

By Tony Merevick| Chicago Phoenix
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
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Democratic State Sen. Heather Steans said Tuesday a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois will be heard by a Senate committee Wednesday night and a full Senate vote on a bill could come as early as Thursday.

“There is certainly a lot of great momentum,” Steans said. “Thursday is what we are aiming for.”

The bill will be considered by the Senate Executive Committee at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, where Steans expects it to gain approval.

The announcement signals the bill’s chief sponsors — Steans in the Senate and Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) in the House — and other proponents of the bill have gained enough votes to secure its passage in the Senate, as forces on both sides of the issue make their final pushes to lobby lawmakers before the legislature’s lame duck session begins Wednesday.

The bill needs at least 30 votes in the Senate before it can move to the House, where it will need 60 votes to make its way to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, who will sign the bill into law and has been lobbying state lawmakers for additional support.

Steans said the “yes” votes needed to pass the bill in the Senate are there if all of the lawmakers make it back to Springfield following the holidays.

“If everyone shows up, then yes, the votes are here,” she told Chicago Phoenix, adding that absences may delay a vote.

In addition, both Steans and Harris said they are close to securing the 60 votes required to pass the bill in the House.

“We certainly want to get to 60 by next week,” Steans said. “We are in striking distance — if not already there.”

Lawmakers have until the end of the 97th General Assembly’s lame duck session — Jan. 9 — to pass the bill through both the Senate and the House, when a new class of legislators are sworn in.

Steans attributes the rapidly increasing support for same-sex marriage among her peers to President Barack Obama’s coming out in support of the bill as well as efforts by civil rights and LGBT rights organizations.

“[Obama's] coming out in support really helped a lot,” Steans said. “I think it really has made a difference.”

But Harris, Steans and several LGBT rights organizations are asking supporters to contact their local legislators, regardless of their voting record or current stance on gay marriage.

“Have your friends and family call throughout the state — it’s needed,” Steans said in a recent interview. “Especially outside the city limits. Now is the time.”

Anthony Martinez, executive director at Chicago-based LGBT rights and policy non-profit, The Civil Rights Agenda, echoed the call to action.

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