SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The General Assembly narrowly approved a gay marriage bill Tuesday, clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state to legalize same-sex unions.
The bill got 61 votes in the House, one more than the minimum needed to send it back to the Senate, which had passed an earlier version and quickly signed off on this one. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign the bill.
The House vote followed more than 2 1/2 hours of debate. Supporters said it’s time for Illinois to make marriage equal for all. Opponents raised concerns about protecting the institution of marriage and the religious beliefs of those who say marriage should be between a man and woman.
One of the sponsors, Rep. Greg Harris, told colleagues that there has been a series of “proud moments and difficult decisions that have brought honor upon the people and the state of Illinois, and we find ourselves at another one of those moments today.”
The openly gay Democratic lawmaker from Chicago said the state’s civil union law has saddled Illinois with “inequality, unfair burden and harms added layer by layer to people simply because they live in the state of Illinois.”
“To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law, we must change this,” Harris said.
But Chicago Democratic Rep. Mary Flowers pointed to a passage in the book of Genesis that a man leaves his father and mother to “cleave to his wife.”
Same-sex couples will “not be truly married in God’s eyes,” she said, and neither the church nor the legislature has the ability to overturn the basic tenets of the Bible. “This debate is a joke,” Flowers said.
Rep. Kelly Cassidy, an openly gay Chicago lawmaker, begged lawmakers to consider what they will tell people in the future about the vote.
“What did you do when faced with this historic moment?” Cassidy asked.
She recounted how she had to rush from Springfield to Chicago to be with her partner, who was hospitalized in excruciating pain. Cassidy said she had to weigh whether she could go “straight to her side” or spend an extra hour picking up paperwork that showed she had the legal right to be with her.
“Please, vote ‘yes’ and join us on the right side of history,” Cassidy said.