Illinois lawmakers vote to allow gay marriages

By one vote, the Illinois House on Tuesday made the state the 15th to allow same-sex marriage.

The House voted, 61-54, with two voting present, to approve Senate Bill 10, which will allow same-sex marriages effective June 1. The bill’s sponsor, openly gay Rep. Greg Harris, pushed the effective date back to lower the vote threshold to 60 votes rather than the 71 needed in veto session for bills that take effect immediately.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, was the only McHenry County legislator to support the bill. Republican Reps. Mike Tryon, Barbara Wheeler, David McSweeney and Tim Schmitz voted no. All three of the county’s senators – Republicans Pam Althoff, Dan Duffy and Karen McConnaughay – voted no when it passed the Senate on Valentine’s Day.

Duffy and McConnaughay voted no again when the amended bill returned to the Senate later Tuesday for concurrence, where it passed on a 32-21 vote. Althoff didn’t cast a vote.

The bill now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has long supported same-sex marriage and has pledged to sign it into law.

Franks in his floor speech called on lawmakers to pass the bill.

“No one should need to bring a copy of a contract to a hospital when their partner is sick because of a distinction we choose to make here in the General Assembly,” Franks said. “If being gay requires anyone to jump through extra legal hoops for any reason, then we have legally sanctioned the existence of a class of people with fewer rights than everyone else.”

But Wheeler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, told the Northwest Herald that she could not support the bill because she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. Wheeler did not participate in the debate on the House floor before voting against the bill.

“I’m Catholic, and the message hasn’t been more clear to me from my Catholic church, my bishop and my priest that this is something that is not going to be good for our communities,” Wheeler said.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. While civil unions have been legal in Illinois since 2011, efforts to take the next step have stalled. Harris had the bill ready in May but did not bring it to a vote because he did not have the 60 votes needed to pass it.

Members from the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ Northern Illinois Council were among several same-sex marriage activists who lobbied lawmakers to pass the bill earlier this spring.

Toni Weaver, council president and a McHenry resident, said Tuesday marked a marvelous day for same-sex couples in Illinois. Weaver said she knows of many dedicated same-sex couples in McHenry County who now can feel relief.

“What a great day for them that the state of Illinois recognizes the validity of their relationship,” Weaver said. “They are no longer second-class citizens here in the state of Illinois.”

But opponents of the legislation, which included some of the most powerful religious leaders in the state, have said marriage should remain between a man and a woman. A group of Chicago-area pastors vowed to line up primary challengers against some Chicago-area lawmakers who voted yes.

“This issue is not just about two adults and their emotional relational and financial commitment to another,” said Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican. “Redefining marriage has far reaching implications in our society.”

The Diocese of Rockford, which includes McHenry County, blasted the vote as “truly grievous.”

“We pray that those who stood prepared to support this legislation will also be prepared to answer for its consequences on our society,” the diocese said in a statement.

• Reporter Stephen DiBenedetto and wire reports contributed to this report.