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Illinois House committee votes to advance same-sex marriage bill

Illinois House committee votes to advance same-sex marriage bill

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois state House committee has approved a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, sending the measure to the full House for a vote.

The Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, was approved by the House Executive Committee moments ago by a vote of 6-5.

A vote on the measure was expected by mid-afternoon, but a fiery debate over concealed weapons in the House floor lasting more than six hours delayed the committee’s action.

The committee heard from five witnesses testifying support of the bill, including two Chicago faith leaders. Among them, Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, testified that he believes in the separation of church and state, meaning, “We are called upon to live our faith, not legislate our faith.”

Moss argued that “the issue is not about theology, but it is about public policy that allows for equal protection under the law.”

Four others spoke in opposition to the bill, including Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage.

Morse stated that the bill threatened “structural injustice” against children, and that same-sex marriage “redefines parenthood as a side-effect of redefining marriage.”

The measure needed at least six votes among the 11-member committee before advancing to the full House.

Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill’s sponsor in the House, said the bill is a matter of treating gay couples and heterosexual couples equally under the law.

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He said last week “the prospects are very good” that the measure will pass in the Democratic-controlled House.

“Now, every voice in the state that supports giving all loving couples the freedom to marry needs to be heard loudly and clearly in the Capitol,” said Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of Equality Illinois, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. “Their efforts will be crucial to the success of this campaign.”

The bill, SB 10, was approved by the state Senate on February 14.

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has pledged to sign the measure if it reaches his desk, which would make Illinois the 10th state in the nation and to allow same-sex marriage.

The results of a Crain’s/Ipsos Illinois Poll released last week found that 50 percent of the state’s adult residents support the same-sex marriage bill, while only 29 percent opposed it.

The Committee’s vote came on the same day more than 75 prominent Republican leaders — including former Utah governor and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman — signed a U.S. Supreme Court legal brief supporting the freedom to marry.

And, just hours earlier, Fortune magazine reported that more than 60 major U.S. corporations signed a separate brief calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans.

Developing story, check back for updates.

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