BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — By a vote of 34 to 21, Illinois's state senate has passed a gay-marriage bill. The bill now heads to the state House, where the measure may face a stiffer fight, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Marriage would be redefined from a union between a man and a woman to one between two people under state law if the legislation is enacted, but religious denominations or ministers would not be coerced to “solemnize any marriage,” the report notes. Those already in civil unions that were legalized two years ago would be able to convert them to gay marriages "within a year of a same-sex marriage law going on the books" in the state.
Bill sponsor Heather Steans says the bill would ensure gay couples are not mired in second-class citizenship.
While one senator called the Valentine's Day vote a "day of celebration," another said choosing Feb 14, a day to celebrate love, was a bid to "disguise what is truly a devaluing of traditional marriage."
Republican senator Tim Bivins, an opponent of the measure, says allowing gays to marry is tantamount to "knocking down one of the basic foundations of society."
Speaking in favour of the bill, Senator Willie Delgado, a Chicago Democrat, said it is time to end prejudice against gay and lesbian couples, the Tribune reports. Recalling the film Lincoln, Delgado said he felt like he was "sitting in 1865, where similar debates were created on why slavery should continue in this country.
"This is the time. This is the place. This is the moment . . . We are one people," Delgado is quoted as saying.
Making reference to Martin Luther King's statement that the universe's moral arc bends toward justice, Senator Toi Hutchinson said the bill is an opportunity for senators to bend that arc a "little bit further."