Full state Senate vote delayed on gay marriage bill
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org January 3, 2013 2:02PM
12-03-2010 Handout copyphoto of State Senator Michael Nolan for Dave McKinney Saturday story slugg: JFKSPEECH-CST-1204 Nolan
Updated: February 5, 2013 6:23AM
A vote on same-sex marriage will have to wait another day — likely until Tuesday — in the full Illinois Senate.
That news came early Thursday afternoon from state Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, who predicted, “I don’t think it’s going to get called today.”
“It seems as though we’re missing some members. It’s going to be a close vote, so everybody who plans to vote on that needs to be down here, and I don’t think we have the votes that we need at this point,” Noland said.
He was right, according to a statement issued by the office of Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. Bipartisan support is necessary for either the issue of same-sex marriage or bans on military-style weapons and high-powered ammunition to advance out of the legislative chamber, the statement said.
“It is clear that we will need bipartisan support in order to take floor votes on gun safety and marriage equality this week,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said in the prepared statement.
“We will take some time to work on these important issues to advance them in the near future.”
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, the chief Senate sponsor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, told the Chicago Sun-Times three key absences hurt efforts Thursday to pass legislation making Illinois the 10th state to legalize gay marriage. Those absences, coupled with heavy lobbying against the bill from the Archdiocese of Chicago, left her short of the necessary 30 votes she would need to get the legislation out of the Senate before the chamber adjourned for the weekend.
A procedural misstep first had kept the bill from being heard by the Senate Executive Committee as planned Wednesday
But the gay marriage bill did get heard and was passed 8-5 along party lines Thursday evening by the Senate panel.
Supporters expecting an 11 a.m. hearing had waited hours while senators occupied themselves with a string of rambling farewell resolutions to departing members. They burst into applause and hugs when the committee voted to send the legislation to the Senate floor.
In a second statement issued shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, Cullerton said he was “confident” the measure can pass but stopped short of saying when.
Steans said she intends to seek a full floor vote in the Senate on Tuesday. That’s one day before this version of the Illinois General Assembly ends its two-year run and new group of legislators is seated.
“This is totally a question of when we’re going to do it, not if we’re going to do it,” she said. “If for some reason we don’t have all our members here and can’t do it next week, I’ve been assured we’ll do it very early on in the next session.”
For and against
And Noland said, whenever it is called for a vote on the Senate floor, the same-sex marriage bill will have his support.
“It is something whose time I think has come. The trend throughout not only the country and the state of Illinois, but also in my district, shows people are accepting of this,” he said.
“It is important to those this affects — to members of the gay and lesbian community. There’s no doubt it is very important to them, and I am sensitive to that.”
The Elgin Democrat said he also is sensitive to others who would not directly be impacted by the bill. For them, pension reform, balancing the budget and getting “fiscal matters of the state taken care of” top the list of priorities for their legislators.
And, he admitted, “Pension reform is the center of gravity.” That will impact whether legislators also will balance the budget and reform taxes, he said.
Both President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also have encouraged state legislators to pass the measure. And actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson made phone calls to state senators Thursday urging their support from the desk of Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon in Springfield.
On the other side of the issue, Robert Gilligan, director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said Catholic leaders had discussed the possibility of Cardinal Francis George making direct appeals to legislators with personal phone calls. Gilligan said it wasn’t clear whether that had happened Thursday.
On Sunday, George had urged Catholic parishioners throughout Chicago to reach out to legislators to pressure them not to vote for the gay marriage bill.
“It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love,” he wrote in a letter meant for inclusion in parish bulletins. “Does this mean nature is cruel or that God is unfair? No, but it does mean that marriage is what nature tells us it is and that the state cannot change natural marriage.”
Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney contributed to this report.