The U.S. state of Illinois is set to become the 15th state and largest in the heartland to allow same-sex marriage, after both chambers of the state legislature approved a measure legalizing gay weddings.
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday that he would sign the bill into law, although he did not specify a date. The House, which had adjourned in May without passing a Senate bill legalizing same-sex marriage, approved the measure Tuesday by a vote of 61 to 54.
“Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history,” said Quinn, who campaigned for the measure, which is scheduled to take effect in June.
An aide to Quinn said the governor will sign the bill by the end of the month.
The vote capped a string of legislative and legal victories for same-sex marriage activists since they won ballot initiative fights in Maryland, Maine and Washington state in 2012. This year, they won legislative battles in Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota, where an attempt to ban same-sex marriage failed the previous year; a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down California’s same-sex marriage ban; and a ruling last month by the New Jersey Supreme Court that the state had to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because a challenge to the state’s ban was likely to win on appeal. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, subsequently said he would not challenge the ruling.
“It’s been an absolutely historic year of powerful momentum, and I think it just shows the country is ready,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for the group Freedom to Marry.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement that it was “disappointing but not surprising that the House has voted to redefine marriage. The losers will be the people of Illinois who will see that redefining marriage will unleash a torrent of harassment toward those who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Brown added that the law, which stipulates fraternal religious organizations such as the Knights of Columbus do not have to host same-sex wedding ceremonies, lacked sufficient religious liberty protections.
“Once the law goes into effect in June of next year, we will see individuals, businesses and religious groups sued, fined, brought up on charges of discrimination and punished simply for holding true to the traditional view of marriage,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama — who campaigned for the law this year — praised the Illinois legislature, where he once served.
“As President, I have always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law,” Obama said in a statement. “Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else. So tonight, Michelle and I are overjoyed for all the committed couples in Illinois whose love will now be as legal as ours — and for their friends and family who have long wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and equally under the law.”
Hawaii is likely to be the next state to legalize same-sex marriage; the state Senate passed such a bill Oct. 30, and the state House is expected to vote on the measure in a matter of days. Hawaii, like Illinois, allows for civil unions of same-sex couples.
The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the question of same-sex marriage on Oct. 23 and is expected to rule on the matter in the coming months.
The state’s constitution is silent on the issue, and six same-sex couples have sued for the right to marry.
© 2013, The Washington Post