The start of the new legislative in Illinois brought the reintroduction of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
On Jan. 9, Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, sponsored the reintroduced Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans, also a Democrat, was reintroducing the bill in her chamber.
Steans said, "Last week, the Senate Executive Committee made history by approving same-sex marriage and gave our efforts incredible momentum. With the full support of Senate President John Cullerton, I am confident legislators will grant all Illinois couples the freedom to marry this year."
Harris said, “We are one step closer to equality in the Land of Lincoln. The bills we filed today will treat all couples equally under the law. We are going full steam ahead on this.”
When the new year began, there were hopes for a mad-dash passage of the legislation in the lame-duck session.
But there were a couple of absences in Springfield that set lawmakers and civil rights advocates on a path to passing the bill early in the new session.
Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn has said he'd like to sign the measure by Valentine's Day.
In a statement released mid-morning Jan. 9, Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov said, "We expect the House and Senate to promptly pass the measure and remove the current barrier to the equal availability of civil marriage. There will not be one day of the new legislature when we will not be hammering home the message that all couples in a lifelong, committed relationship deserve the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage for themselves and their families."
Illinois Unites for Marriage – a coalition led by EI, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois – is continuing its statewide campaign in support of the bill. The organizations leading Illinois Unites applauded the prompt introduction of the bills.
"No House or Senate member can deny the breadth of support and widespread belief that treating all Illinois couples fairly and equally is the right and responsible thing to do in Illinois. Same-sex couples and their children cannot wait any longer,” the Illinois Unites coalition stated in a news release.
Coalition members also noted that marriage equality legislation has been endorsed by nearly every major newspaper in Illinois, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, the Peoria Journal Star, the Springfield Journal-Register and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.