No vote yet on Illinois marriage equality

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Despite the efforts of lawmakers, activists, and organizations to pass a bill that would have legalized gay marriage in Illinois during the lame duck session of the General Assembly, the legislation may not get a full vote. According to Rep. Greg Harris, its chief sponsor in the House, "there is simply not enough time or votes."

Harris and Sen. Heather Steans, the bill's chief sponsor in the Senate, had hoped it would be approved in a committee on Jan. 2 and get a full vote Jan. 3. But the absence of senators Suzi Schmidt, R-Lake Villa, and James Clayborne, D-Belleville, weakened the possibility of getting that done. The senators had been called away due to family emergencies. Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, is on vacation and will not return for the session.

In other words, said Harris, "The Senate was missing three 'yes' votes. We didn't want to put the legislation on the board next week without [those] votes. This is a question of time and math."

This development came on the heels of the Senate Executive Committee of the Illinois General Assembly's approval of the measure.

But given the circumstances, the likelihood of the bill passing through the Senate and House on Jan. 8 is very slim, Harris believes. But after the new class of lawmakers are sworn in on Jan. 9, he plans to introduce the bill again. He feels it will move quickly and may come to pass well before the next lame duck session in early 2014.

"What's important when we reconvene," said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, "is that we work to protect and strengthen all Illinois families, and that's what this legislation does."

"Although we are disheartened by the lack of votes, there is always hope for movement," said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. "We will continue to push to ensure that marriage equality happens in Illinois as soon as possible. As I said before, legislation always meets bumps on the road. These things can turn on a dime."

Photo: A demonstrator waves a gay pride flag during a marriage equality rally in Chicago. M. Spencer Green/AP

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