Illinois lawmakers failed Friday night to approve a bill to legalize gay marriage, but the bill’s sponsor pledged to bring it back for passage at the end of the year.
The 60 votes were not there for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, also known as SB 10, so Democrat leaders of the Illinois House of Representatives did not bring it up.
Several colleagues said “they could not cast a vote on this bill today,” said State Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s lead sponsor.
“I have never been sadder to accept such a request,” he said tearfully, but they asked for time to go back to their districts, talk to constituents and return in November to support the bill.
“We will be back and we will be voting on this bill, in this legislature,” Mr. Harris said.
Friday was the last day when the gay-marriage bill could be passed in the regular session.
The measure can be revived in November in what is known as a “veto session,” but 71 House votes are needed to pass a bill in that session.
“In a liberal state like Illinois, this is a truly remarkable victory,” said Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute, one of the groups that opposed the “genderless marriage” bill.
Gay-rights supporters were outraged that a Democrat-led state would fail to pass a marriage bill, but promised to keep up the pressure until it was passed.
Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive of Equality Illinois, called the turn of events “disgraceful,” but took heart that three other states — Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota – moved marriage equality through their chambers this year. “This proves that our country is moving towards the right side of history, and quickly,” he said.
The gay-marriage bill had sailed through the Illinois Senate on Valentine’s Day, and was expected to do the same in the Illinois House.
But a group of black pastors, called the African American Clergy Coalition, which was aligned with Catholic and other religious and traditional values groups, stood against the bill. Chicago pastors in particular warned black lawmakers that they would not be invited to speak in their churches if they failed to protect the biblical view of marriage.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois said that it was “profoundly grateful” that Illinois House lawmakers “listened to their constituents and declined to consider legislation that would redefine marriage in Illinois.”
The church said it would continue to advocate “for what is right and just, while serving the needs of our community to the very best of our ability,” including showing respect and pastoral concern “for our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction.”
“This is a great victory for our allies and supporters, as well as Illinois families who have worked tirelessly with us to preserve marriage in Illinois,” said Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage.