- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2013

Although Illinois lawmakers failed Friday night to approve a bill to make it the 13th state to perform gay marriages, legislative leaders pledged to bring it back for passage with some holding out hope that it could before the end of the summer.

The 60 votes were not there for the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, said state Rep. Greg Harris, one of four openly gay members of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Several colleagues said “they could not cast a vote on this bill today,” Mr. Harris said tearfully, not long before the chamber adjourned.

“I have never been sadder to accept such a request,” he said, 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 as known as a “veto session,” but 71 House votes would be needed to pass a bill in that session.

There is also the possibility that if Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn calls lawmakers back for a special legislative session in the summer to address pension reform, which also was left without resolution Friday, he could include the gay-marriage bill.

On Friday night, before the House adjourned, House Speaker Michael Madigan took the step of extending the bill’s deadline date for approval until Aug. 31, according to the Illinois Observer online newspaper. This keeps the gay marriage bill alive, but also likely requires more legislative steps, including a concurrence from the Illinois Senate, the political website said.

But even the bill’s failure to pass was a stunning turn of events.

“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.

“Today our Lord and savior Jesus Christ has won! Pastor James Meeks, Bishop Lance Davis and I are so proud of the God-fearing Black Caucus members who withstood the pressure of the [lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender] forces and allowed God’s word concerning marriage to remain between one man and one woman in Illinois,” said Bishop Larry D. Trotter, co-chairman of the African American Clergy Coalition.

But gay marriage supporters were outraged.

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 gay marriage through their chambers this year. “This proves that our country is moving toward the right side of history, and quickly,” he said.

“Make no mistake, we will fight and make our case until all Illinois families have the freedom to marry the person they love, and until the legislative vote reflects the solid majority of Illinoisans and Americans who stand for treating their neighbors the way they want to be treated,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry.

Other gay-marriage supporters noted that other legislatures, including Maryland’s, had punted before they finally passed the law legalizing gay marriage.

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