SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate voted 34-21 Thursday to legalize gay marraige.
The legislation, referred to by supporters as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, now goes to the House, where Democrats are in control, as they are in the Senate. If the bill makes it to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's desk, Illinois would become the 10th state in the nation to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Opponents in the Senate included Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, who at one point during floor debate quoted a writing of Pople John Paul II, who Haine said is "certainly not a purveyor of racism or discrimination." He also quoted the Chief Rabbi of France, to illustrate that religious leaders of various faiths oppose gay marriage.
Haine said: "We are embarked on a profound change in the fundamental institution of society, and we're doing it on the basis of emotion and the needs of citizens who vote... We are changing an institution that is revered and held sacred...by thousands of people."
He added: "It is a strike at the heart of a fundamental, societal institution, without clear thinking as to the ramification of that. It is not analagous to the civil rights struggle, which was waged by people of faith."
Haine also said it's disingenuous for supporters to refer to gay marriage as "marriage equality," because the bill still outlaws some types of marriage, such as among polygamists and siblings.
Supporters included Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, who said the legislation "breaks down barriers" for gays. He also said the Catholic church doesn't have a "stellar record on morality," and that the greatest of the Ten Commandments is to "love one another."
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said the bill will eventually change what is taught in schools. He also noted how Catholic Charities got out of the business of providing foster care and adoption services when the organization was forced to provide services to gay couples.
Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, an opponent, said churches and church-based schools could be forced to make their facilities available for same-sex marriages.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, noted the bill states that no "church, mosque, synagogue, temple, nondenominational ministry, interdenominational or ecumenical organization, mission organization, or other organization whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion is required to provide religious facilities for the solemnization ceremony or celebration" of gay marriage.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, suggested too much was being made of the issue. "The sky is not falling," he said.
Some Senate Democrats had been pushing for the vote to happen today because of its symbolism: Valentine's Day.
Democrats didn't have the votes to pass the measure on the Senate floor during a recent lame duck session. But with the party now in control of 40 seats, they had the 30 votes needed to move it forward.
The bill was approved in a Senate committee last week on a straight party-line vote, with Republicans saying they had concerns it would force religious organizations to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their fellowship halls, parish centers or even in their sanctuaries. Bishops in Illinois, led by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, also have said they oppose the idea as against the "natural order."
The Illinois Family Institute also is opposed, stating on its website: "Things are really heating up in Springfield. The pension crisis? Illinois' financial trouble and inability to pay its bills? No, liberal lawmakers want to legalize homosexual marriage and have actually put it on a fast track."
Equality Illinois, a gay rights group, is pushing for passage, asking members Thusday on its website to contact their legislators. "Make this year's Valentine's Day historic by urging the Senate to vote 'Yes,'" the group urged.
How senators from the metro-east voted:
Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Absent
Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: No
Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: No