Though expectations were high that the Illinois Senate would vote on a marriage-equality measure by Thursday, lawmakers clocked out without bringing it to a vote.
The Senate Executive Committee did hear testimony on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, but Sen. Heather Steans (right) admitted she lacked the votes to get it passed on the floor.
Asked if maybe there just wasn’t enough support to garner the necessary 30 votes to pass the measure, Steans replied, “Oh, no, no, no. We really did have the votes. We were just missing members today.”
There’s still time for a bill to get passed before the lame-duck session ends on January 9, but the window is closing.
This has been a week of setbacks, starting with Wednesday’s scheduled discussion being pushed to Thursday because there wasn’t enough votes to get an immediate hearing. And though President Obama, Gov. Pat Quinn, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and even the head of the Illinois Republican Party have got to bat for marriage equality in the Prairie State, Cardinal Francis George, the Catholic Conference of Illinois and the National Organization for Marriage have all come out swinging, too.
The division on the issue was evident in the testimony given to the Senate Executive Committee, which advanced the measure to the Senate with an 8-5 vote:
“It’s not often that we really have a chance in this chamber to be taking a look at something providing a basic civil right and advancing fairness,” said sponsoring Sen. Steans. “Same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons we all do–for commitment, family, mutual responsibility.
Steans said gay couples have suffered from the 2nd-class status. Underscoring Steans’ point was emotional testimony from Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe, a lesbian couple from Rogers Park who got a civil union in Illinois.
“Right now, we are in a civil union, but it is not enough,” testified Theresa Volpe.
Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki testified against the proposal, saying, “It would radically redefine what marriage is for everybody.” He maintained the “natural family” is undermined by the legislation.
“Neither two men nor two women can possibly form a marriage,” Paprocki said. “Our law would be wrong if it said that they could. “The basic structure of marriage as the exclusive and lasting relationship of a man and a woman, committed to a life with the potential of having children, is given to us in human nature, and thus by nature’s God,” Paprocki said.
We want marriage equality in Illinois, but we also know how hard the fights in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington were to win. If this lame-duck Hail Mary really isn’t going to work, we don’t want activists, allies and supportive lawmakers burning through resources on it.
Hopefully Steans has the numbers she needs to win this thing, and some outgoing Senators just had a case of senioritis.