Sponsors of marriage bill in Illinois aim for a January vote

Yesterday, two Illinois state legislators said that they will be working hard in the next month to pass the freedom to marry in Illinois. In three weeks, the General Assembly reconvenes, and two lawmakers responsible for sponsoring a freedom to marry bill - Rep. Greg Harris (pictured) and Sen. Heather Steans - have said they will push for the approval of the bill soon after the legislative session resumes.

Rep. Harris commented on the potential vote - which could come as soon as January - yesterday. He said:

It's very straightforward. We treat all couples with the same respect and dignity in the eyes of the law, and we protect the rights of religious institutions to either consecrate or not consecrate marriages within their faith as they see fit. It's very important that government not involve itself in religion on either side of the issue. 

The comments from Harris and Steans come after prominent and vocal support from other lawmakers in the state. Governor Pat Quinn has said that passing the freedom to marry in Illinois is a key goal for 2013, saying he would eagerly await "a bill on my desk I can sign," adding, "We're closer every day." In November, Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, called the freedom to marry one of his top three priorities for next year. 

In September, a poll demonstrated that nearly 44 percent of respondents in Illinois said they support marriage for same-sex couples, while only 20 percent of people said they believe same-sex couples should not have any access to any form of family status. That marks a significnat jump from 2010, when the same polling organization found only 33 percent of Illinois residents supporting marriage for same-sex couples.  

Since 2011, same-sex couples in Illinois have been permitted to join together in civil union - a law that Rep. Harris and Sen. Steans played crucial roles in passing. In the past year, 5,000 couples have seen their relationships recognized by the state in this capacity. Civil union offers some - but not all - of the protections that marriage affords, and this year, even couples with civil unions have seen their relationships misunderstood, disrespected, and treated as something significantly less than marriage. Despite the legal and economic benefits that civil unions afford, only the freedom to marry can truly protect all same-sex couples and their families.  

Learn more about the freedom to marry in Illinois