Illinois marriage bill passes out of Senate Committee, signaling momentum in 2013

Yesterday, the Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted to advance a bill that would extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in the state. The decision marked the first time that a legislative body in Illinois has ever voted in favor of the freedom to marry, and it signals that momentum is on our side for the next legislative session. 

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov celebrated the historic step forward while acknowledging that "time to move the bill through both chambers is not on our side." The new General Assembly will begin on January 9, 2013, and marriage advocates in the state are entering the session with greater momentum for passing the freedom to marry than ever before.  

The vote came after a hearing of why marriage matters in the state capital of Springfield. People of faith, same-sex couples, and other advocates shared their stories with the committee and explained why full respect and the freedom to marry is so important to them. Rev. Kim Beckmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America delivered one testimony. She said:

Marriage equality is about those profound moments from the joy of a wedding and the sorrows of the death that parts us. Even more, marriage equality is about all those days in between, ordinary days of raising families, keeping a household running and supporting vocations that build Illinois communities. Any one of us who tries to live faithfully and fully in family life knows the importance of the recognition and community support and the legal support that marriage brings. As a pastor and as a person of faith, I want those supports for every household in my congregation and I want these supports that make for strong, thriving, and life-giving communities available to all our Illinois families. 

Advocates in the state have been speaking out all week. This weekend, President Barack Obama urged legislators to approve the marriage bill. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin also appealed to lawmakers in favor of ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson delivered a rousing speech yesterday calling for Illinois to stand on the Right Side of History by respecting the love and commitment of all couples in the state. Watch his entire speech below.   

Illinois will now be able to take advantage of this amazing momentum going into the next legislative session. Cherkasov reflected to The Washington Blade:

We have come so far. Just to be able to witness the historic public debate over the desire of all loving, committed couples to be able to marry in Illinois is a major accomplishment. And with the landmark action by the Senate Executive Committee in favor of the bill, for the first time ever an Illinois legislative body voted to extend the freedom to marry. Never before has the issue gone this far in the Illinois legislature. 

For the past year, same-sex couples in Illinois have been permitted to join together in civil union, which extends some - but not all - of the protections and responsibilities that marriage provides. 

Learn more about the freedom to marry in Illinois.  

Jesse Tyler Ferguson Photo by Getty Images