The Illinois Senate voted on Thursday to pass a bill allowing same-sex marriage, effectively eradicating the notion that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens without the same rights as their straight counterparts.
Senator Heather Steans (D-Ill.), the bill’s sponsor, told the Chicago Tribune she is motivated by urgency for equality and the idea that all people want to marry for the same reasons, mostly for love. The vote symbolically took place on Valentine’s Day, giving the LGBT community and its advocates a reason to celebrate.
The Senate passed the bill by a lot, 34-21, with two senators voting present. Senator Jason Barickman (R-Ill.) was the only Republican to join the otherwise Democratic majority.
The future for same-sex marriage rights in Illinois looks bright considering Governor Pat Quinn has indicated he would sign the bill should it reach his office. What’s more, the House is made up of 60% Democrats. Although it is typically more difficult to pass bills in larger legislative bodies, this majority is promising.
In the event that the bill becomes law, Illinois would join nine other states and the District of Columbia in embracing marriage as a union between two people, not exclusively a man and woman. The Illinois law would not compel religious officiates to perform same-sex marriages, and same-sex couples currently in civil unions would be able to convert their status to marriage. Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011.
The passage of this law in Illinois could have significant national implications. Given the recent trend, Americans seem to be looking more favorably at same-sex marriage. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute released a poll on Wednesday revealing an increase in support for same-sex marriage.
This year showed 45.5% approval whereas the same poll in 2010 only showed 33.6% approval. Like many social issues in the U.S. that trigger change, it takes time for the government and the public to come around.
As is the case with all civil rights issues there are staunch conservatives who believe such laws are, in Senator Tim Bivins’ words to the Chicago Tribune, “knocking down the foundations of society.”
It is hard to fathom that after all of the civil rights obstacles we’ve overcome as a nation, there are still people who are so narrow-minded.
Senator Willie Delgado (D-Ill.) experiences the same frustration. He told the Tribune he was “having flashbacks to the movie Lincoln ... For the love of God, I feel like I’m sitting in 1865 where similar debates were created on why slavery should continue in this country ... This is the time. This is the place. This is the moment. We are one people."
The coming months will determine what side of history the state of Illinois comes out on.