- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Illinois all but became the 15th state to enact gay marriage Tuesday as lawmakers passed the bill with only one vote to spare in the lower chamber, sending the bill to a governor eager to sign it.

The bill, which was still sitting on the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, on Tuesday evening, will permit gay marriages to begin in June, a delay crucial in winning passage as it changed the needed number of votes.

Tuesday’s crucial vote came in the House, which had unexpectedly refused to go along the last time it was presented with a gay-marriage bill. Tuesday’s 61-54 vote was just one more than the needed 60 supporters; two lawmakers voted “present.” That vote sent the gay-marriage bill to the Senate, which promptly approved it on a 32-21 vote.

“Please vote yes and join us on the right side of history,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy, an openly gay Democrat.

Tuesday’s vote was seen as an important political marker — advocates on both sides of the gay-marriage issue have threatened to back primary challenges to lawmakers who voted against their views.

Illinois‘ Democratic political leaders, including Mr. Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, weighed in to convince lawmakers to vote for Senate Bill 10. President Obama issued a statement Tuesday evening, just hours after the vote, praising lawmakers in his home state.

“Tonight, [first lady Michelle Obama] and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours — and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law,” Mr. Obama said.

In his plea for “yes” votes, House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, quoted Pope Francis as his inspiration to call for the gay marriage law. “Who am I to judge?” Mr. Madigan said repeatedly.

Traditional-values groups, religious leaders, the Catholic Church and black pastors stood against the bill.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck emergency,” David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, told his allies before the vote.

“Same-sex marriage will do great harm to our children, our churches, and our religious freedom. It is not the design God instituted for marriage and family,” he said. “We redefine it at our peril.”

Said the Catholic Conference of Illinois: “Today’s decision by Illinois lawmakers to change the definition of marriage not only goes against the common consensus of the human race — which understands that nature tells us that marriage is the union of one man and one woman — but it also undermines an institution that is the cornerstone of a healthy society. The optimal condition in which to raise children is a home that includes both a mother and father, since women and men are not interchangeable.”

The conference also cited “the very real threats to religious liberty” now at stake.

Political pressure from gay-marriage advocates prevailed, however.

“Thank you, Illinois!” said Equality Illinois, a coalition of gay-marriage supporters who fought hard to pass the bill.

“Just two weeks ago this bill was widely seen as dead in the water for this fall veto session,” said Gay Liberation Network co-founder Andy Thayer, who helped organize a rally Tuesday night.

“What changed? It was the people that forced this bill onto the agenda for this fall veto session, not the politicians and insiders,” Mr. Thayer said. “It was the explicit threat of political retribution to those in Springfield who stood in our way or only half-heartedly supported equal rights.”

But Rep. Thomas Morrison, a Republican, said there was a historical reason why marriages of one man and one woman had a “special status” — and that was because the state should be encouraging marriage and families where children would have one mother and one father.

A vote for gay marriage won’t end the issue, Mr. Morrison added. Advocates of polygamy and polyamory are “taking note” and saying, “we want this too.”

The bill’s passage came after Rep. Greg Harris, a Democrat from Chicago and the bill’s sponsor, made a parliamentary change that made passing the bill easier.

As originally introduced, the bill would have required a supermajority of 71 votes this week. But because Mr. Harris changed the bill — setting the effective date for gay marriage as June 1 instead of “30 days after passage” — the House needed only 60 votes to pass it.

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