SPRINGFIELD — When Danielle Cook heard Thursday that she and her partner Suzie Hutton were one step closer to getting married, she said it was the “best day ever.”

The proposal that would allow same-sex couples such as Cook and Hutton of Bloomington to marry cleared the state Senate on Thursday, just in time for St. Valentine’s Day.

The measure was approved by the full Senate on a vote of 34-21 and now moves to the House.

“I urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation so that we can ensure Illinois is a welcoming place for everyone,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Opposition in the Senate came from Republicans concerned the measure would require religious organizations to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies in their parish centers, fellowship halls and the like.

Advocates said the initiative, which included an amendment, would allow religious institutions to perform the ceremonies they choose.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, was the only Republican to vote “yes” on the measure.

“I was directly involved in the negotiation of the amendment that I believe does an adequate job of protecting the religious freedoms that I have strongly supported,” Barickman said.

He said he is not concerned about the possibility that he could draw a primary challenge in his Central Illinois district.

“What I was concerned about was doing the right thing,” Barickman said.

State. Sen. Gary Forby, D- Benton, explained his “no” vote in simple terms: “A man and a woman. That’s it. I don’t have to go any further. When you get away from a man and a woman, I have nothing else to say about it.”

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, voted “yes.”

“It was a very difficult vote,” Jacobs said. “I’ve noticed a lot of Illinois cars going over to Iowa to get married, so hopefully we’ll stop some of the economic development that’s slipped away.”

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said the measure “not only protects religious institutions ... it also reaffirms the importance of religious liberty in Illinois.”

Except for Barickman, GOP lawmakers were united in their opposition.

“I think this is a violation of First Amendment rights and freedom of religion,” said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.

Cook and Hutton, who entered a civil union two years ago, also testified last week in the Senate committee hearing.

“We’re feeling very optimistic, and every day we feel like we’re one day closer to being recognized as a married couple,” Hutton said. “Marriage is the standard in society; it’s given a different level of respect and dignity than civil unions.”

The couple said they have not always been treated the same as a married couple, such as being required to present a civil union certificate so Hutton could join Cook’s health insurance plan, when a married couple would not have to do so.

However, Cook said although it would be “really easy” and “wonderful” to get married in another state, they made the decision to wait until Illinois recognizes same sex marriage.

“Our families are here, our work is here, our lives are here and we just feel like we should be able to get married here,” Cook said. “Why should we have to go be married in another state? This is our home.”

Religious groups expressed dismay over the vote, which could debated in the House in the coming weeks.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said Senate Bill 10 tosses aside the natural order of marriage as the complementary union of one man and one woman as the foundation for the family.

“Marriage joins a man and a woman in love to meet one another’s needs, to procreate and to raise children. This is the lifeblood of any human society,” Gilligan said. “This legislation tears at that definition with unknown consequences.”

Also voting “no” were Republican state Sens. Bill Brady of Bloomington, Tim Bivins of Dixon, Darin LaHood of Dunlap, Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville, Kyle McCarter of Lebanon, Dale Righter of Mattoon and Chapin Rose of Mahomet.

The legislation is Senate Bill 10.


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