Illinois Set to Be 15th State to Allow Gay Marriage
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- With Illinois set to become the 15th state nationwide to legalize same-sex marriage, Chicago couple Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos finally began planning the wedding they’d started thinking about more than two decades ago.
"From the moment we met and fell in love, the language was, `If I could marry you I would,’" said Volpe, who is expecting the couple’s third child. "We waited a long time for that to happen, to hear ... that we can have that. I think it’s really the final stamp on our relationship."
After months of arduous lobbying in President Barack Obama’s home state, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure Tuesday that would legalize same-sex marriage. Under the legislation, which Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign, couples could start tying the knot in June.
Fourteen other states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.
The road to the Illinois vote was long and included a stalled attempt earlier this year, frustrating activists in a state where Democrats lead the House, Senate and governor’s office. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is the main sponsor, decided not to bring the bill for a vote in May, saying he didn’t have the support.
Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which Harris said resonated with lawmakers. Backers also launched a furious campaign, hiring a union lobbyist, the former head of the Illinois Republican Party and field organizers statewide.
"To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law we must change this," Harris said on the floor. "Families have been kept apart."
Debate lasted more than two hours, and the final roll call was met with cheers. Supporters’ speeches echoed themes of equality and civil rights, with mentions of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.