SPRINGFIELD — Illinois House members on Tuesday said "I do" to a bill that will allow same-sex couples in the state to marry.
The House passed Senate Bill 10 by a vote of 61-54. The bill, already approved by the Senate, now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who praised the legislation as a measure that will "put our state on the right side of history."
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, told colleagues that outlawing gay marriage denies rights to gay couples.
"Today we can change this," he said. "To treat everyone equally under the eyes of the law, we must change this."
House members from the metro-east tilted against the measure, with six voting in opposition and one -- Jay Hoffman -- voting for passage. Hoffman, D-Swansea, had previously said he opposed gay marriage, but recently said he was reconsidering his stance.
Hoffman, during debate on the House floor, said there are more than 1,000 federal rights that are being denied to gay couples who can't marry.
"This is a matter of fairness, it's a matter of equal rights, it's a matter of ensuring same-sex couples are able to enjoy those 1,000 federal rights," Hoffman said.
Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, argued that the Bible says same-sex marriage is wrong. "That's what we've learned from the scriptures," Kay said.
The vote followed an amendment to the bill, which Harris said gives religious-based groups such as the Knights of Columbus the ability to refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Rep. David Reis, R-Olney, asked Harris if the amendment would "really grant total exemption to the Knights of Columbus?"
"Yes," Harris answered. No religious-based group would be required to provide facilities, services or goods for same-sex marriage ceremonies, Harris said.
Reis said business owners such as florists and bakers ought to be given the same exemption. "They all have individual religious beliefs, too," Reis said.
Harris said several of the state's major newspapers, including the Belleville News-Democrat, have penned editorials calling for passage of the bill.
"Editorial voices are calling on us to vote for equality and fairness today," he said.
Only three Republican House members voted for the bill. The GOP supporters included Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr., R-Mundelein, whose mother-in-law is gay. Sullivan said there's no way he could explain a "no" vote to his children.
"How do I tell them that there's something wrong with their grandmother?" he said. "Well, I can't, and I won't."
Rep. David Harris, R-Mount Prospect, said there are many opponents to gay marriage, and it's not fair to call them homophobics or bigots. He noted that the opponents included a number of African-American ministers.
"Are they bigots who don't care about civil rights? I think not," David Harris said.
The Senate approved the bill last year.
Quinn, a Democrat, made an appearance on the House floor during Tuesday's debate. Also on the floor were Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, both Democrats, and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a Republican.
Illinois approved civil unions in 2011. Quinn said more than 6,000 couples have obtained civil unions in the state.
Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2511.
How metro-east House members voted Tuesday:
Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton: No
Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem: No
Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Smithton: No
Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea: Yes
Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis: No
Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon: No
Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville: No
How metro-east Senate members voted last year:
Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville: Didn't vote
Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton: No
Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville: No
Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon: No