Same-sex couples with an eye on marriage got a Valentine from the Illinois Senate Thursday. Thirty-three Democrats and one Republican voted to legalize gay marriage. IPR's Brian Mackey has more:
The supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage couldn't even agree on what they were debating. Supporters say it's a civil rights battle, guaranteeing equal treatment under the law regardless of sexual orientation. But opponents see a threat to religion, and a definition of marriage that's been around for millennia.
"It is a strike at the heart of a fundamental societal institution."
Sen. Bill Haine, from Alton, is one of a handful of Democrats who opposes gay marriage. He was the only one to speak against it in debate. Haine quoted from several religious tracts, including one that says there are other limits on who can and cannot get married.
"Polygamists, bigamists, those who wish to marry brothers, sisters, et cetera."
Haine went on to directly challenge the idea that, when it comes to marriage, gay rights are civil rights.
"It is not analogous to the civil rights struggle, which was waged by people of faith."
That question of faith came up a lot among Republicans. Roman Catholic bishops, in particular, have been vocal about their opposition to same-sex marriage. And Sen. Kyle McCarter, from Lebanon, pointed to the example of Catholic Charities. The group lost its state contract to manage adoptions when it refused to place kids with couples who had gotten civil unions.
"This is a discriminatory bill. People have the right to live as they choose. They don't have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."
McCarter says businesses, faced with the prospect of having to serve gay couples lest they be accused of discrimination, might simply close up shop.
"Bed and breakfasts, florists, all those that are wedding related will be affected. They will choose to, most of them, dissolve their businesses. That's what's happened in other states."
That argument drew audible groans of disbelief from Democrats.
"I don't get out to the movies very often, and I just watched 'Lincoln.' And for the love of God, I feel like I'm sitting in 1865."
Sen. Willie Delgado is from Chicago.
"Gay and lesbian communities, LGBTQ, continue to be second class under our current laws."
Delgado was not the only Democrat to frame same-sex marriage as a matter of civil rights. Sen. Kwame Raoul is from Chicago. He's also black.
"You know, there was a time when, for counting purposes, I would only be considered 3/5 of a man. But we've knocked down that wall."
Raoul, like other Democrats, also says the arguments about religious freedom are a red herring.
"We can continue to worship as we personally wish to worship. And the heads of our respective religious institutions will be allowed to dictate what goes on under the roof of their house of worship."
In the end, that argument prevailed. The final vote was 34 to 21.
"Senate Bill 10 having received the required constitutional majority is declared passed."
The vote was mostly along partisan lines, though one Republican did back same sex marriage, Sen. Jason Barickman, from Bloomington. He says last minute changes to the legislation satisfied his concerns about religious freedom.
"I believe that the people of Illinois want our government to give individuals freedom over their life decisions."
But he was the only Republican who was convinced. The same sex marriage legislation still has to pass the Illinois House, where Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, from Chicago, says he's optimistic about its chances.
"This an idea whose time has come. You've got business leaders, you have faith leaders, you have political leaders of both parties who are supporting this. I think we are about to make a very positive change for tens of thousands of Illinois families."
Harris says he has no idea when it might come up for a vote in the Illinois House. If it does get through that chamber, Gov. Pat Quinn has already said he'll sign it into law. Illinois would become the 10th state to recognize same-sex marriage.
While Barickman was the only Republican to vote for same sex marriage, not all Democrats backed it.
Three voted no, all from Downstate. Bill Haine from Alton, John Sullivan from Rushville, and Gary Forby from Benton.
Two more Democrats didn't take a stand and voted "present," freshmen Napoleon Harris of Flossmoor and Patricia Van Pelt of Chicago.
Support Your Public Radio Station