By MONICA DAVEY and STEVEN YACCINO
Published: November 5, 2013
NEW YORK TIMES
The Illinois House of Representatives voted Tuesday to allow same-sex couples to wed, ending months of delay over the issue in the Capitol and clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, to permit gay couples to marry.
The vote was 61 to 54, mostly along partisan lines, with only three Republicans voting yes.
“In Illinois, we tried civil unions and that separate status has time and time again proved to fall short,” said State Representative Greg Harris, a sponsor of the bill, urging his House colleagues to approve the measure on Tuesday.
The measure passed the Illinois Senate in February, but for procedural reasons it had to be voted on there again. On Tuesday, the Senate quickly approved changes the House made to the bill, sending it to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has said he will sign it. Illinois couples could begin marrying on June 1.
The outcome itself was perhaps less surprising than how long and difficult the debate had proved in a state with both legislative chambers controlled by Democrats and where President Obama, once a member of the State Senate, specifically voiced his support this year. Illinois already permits civil unions for same-sex couples, but even as a wave of state legislatures passed marriage provisions this year, the issue had stalled.
“We were aiming for this to happen a year ago,” said Bernard Cherkasov, the chief executive of Equality Illinois. In May, in the final hours of the State House’s regular session, a leading advocate of the bill reluctantly and tearfully announced that he would delay plans for a vote, suggesting that there were not yet enough votes to pass it.
“In many ways, it has taken longer than we expected,” Mr. Cherkasov said.
Despite Democratic control of both chambers, the issue had been particularly vexing for some Democrats in socially conservative districts outside Chicago and for some black Democrats in Chicago, where some clergy members have suggested that those supporting gay marriage should prepare for election challenges next year.
“We’re prepared to run and elect people who vote where the people’s minds are,” said Bishop Larry Trotter, senior pastor of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church in Chicago and an opponent of same-sex marriage. Mr. Trotter said he believed that most black residents agreed with him, even if it conflicts with the stance of Mr. Obama.
“We love him,” Mr. Trotter said of Mr. Obama. “We want him to be a great president. But on this issue we differ. It’s unfortunate that he is our hero, he is a hometown boy, but I think he needs to understand that when he speaks for this he’s not speaking for the majority of people.”
Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Democratic state representative from downstate Peoria who is black, had not announced how she would vote until this week. Deciding to vote in favor of same-sex marriage, she said in an interview, “took some guts.”
Ultimately, she said, she viewed the issue in light of work her mother had done in the Peoria community on civil rights. “Our history is about moving the dial toward justice, and I see this as another part of that,” she said.
Ms. Gordon-Booth, who was first elected in 2008, said that she intended to seek re-election next year and that she expected she might well now find competition. “Could I end up in a race? You better believe it. But I prayed on this. And I don’t worry about it anymore.”
Political analysts said it was uncertain how serious the political fallout would prove to be. Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, questioned whether Democratic leaders like Michael J. Madigan, the longtime speaker of the House, would have called a vote had they believed it would cause too many election risks for Democrats.
Much has changed in the months since backers of same-sex marriage began pressing lawmakers in Springfield to go a step beyond the civil unions that have been permitted since 2011. Last fall, voters approved marriage measures in Maryland, Maine and Washington, and lawmakers in Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota passed laws this year. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey withdrew his efforts to block same-sex marriage, and weddings began in that state last month.
Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.