SPRINGFIELD -- Signs and chants of gay-rights advocates implored lawmakers Tuesday to vote on same-sex marriage as soon as possible, but whether that vote will come anytime soon remained far from clear.
Illinois -- a state run by Democrats and home of the first president to voice support for same-sex marriage -- has become a battleground for the issue.
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Among the rain-soaked demonstrators -- who numbered about 3,000, according to The Associated Press -- were Paul Dombrowski and Joe Serio of Palatine, who said they want the rights marriage would afford them beyond the civil union they already have.
"They don't even know what a civil union is as you're talking to people or checking in to the doctor," Serio said.
But the issue remains politically prickly for a lot of lawmakers, as evidenced by the potential primary election battle that emerged for state Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, after he said he'll vote for it.
State Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, has also pledged to vote for same-sex marriage. But while much attention has focused on Republican votes, Democrats are far from unanimous on the issue.
A competing rally is planned for today in the same spot in front of the Illinois Capitol, where same-sex marriage opponents will emphasize their position in a battle they've won so far.
"All the lawmakers need to understand that there are a huge number of Illinoisans that don't want to see this passed," said state Rep. Tom Morrison, a Palatine Republican.
On Tuesday, advocates' cause was boosted by speeches by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat.
"This is our hour, this is our moment," Quinn said.
Lawmakers left Springfield in May without taking a vote on the issue. That was a big blow to advocates who had raised expectations of approval and put pressure on supporters to have a vote soon.
"We watched it all fall apart and were very, very disappointed." Serio said.
State Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and sponsor of the same-sex marriage legislation, said the measure could come up during the second scheduled week of session in November. The House has canceled its session for Thursday.
State Rep. Sam Yingling, a Round Lake Beach Democrat and openly gay lawmaker, said he thinks the vote needs to be soon to force his colleagues to decide "if they're going to vote for discrimination or vote for equal protection under the law."
Taking a vote that fails could inflict long-term damage on supporters' cause. To pass the measure later, some people who voted against same-sex marriage would have to publicly flip-flop.
Sullivan has seen how serious opponents are about targeting Republicans who support same-sex marriage. Paul Caprio, director of the Chicago-based conservative Family PAC, called Sullivan a "Cadillac representative of everything that is wrong with this state" in explaining efforts to recruit a primary opponent for Sullivan.
Former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who was targeted for ouster from the job earlier this year because he lobbied in favor of same-sex marriage, said he believes such efforts will be unsuccessful. "They're paper tigers," Brady said.
If a vote on same-sex marriage is put off until January or later, after candidates had already filed for the primary election, the politics of same-sex marriage could become a big part of campaigns for governor in addition to races for statehouse seats.
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.