House declines same-sex marriage vote
SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois House dominated by Democrats Friday declined an attempt to become 13th state to allow same-sex marriage, putting off the controverisal issue until at least November.
Across the country, both sides of the same-sex marriage debate had their eyes focused on the Illinois Capitol to see if House lawmakers would vote to legalize the unions here.
But in the end, same-sex marriage supporters couldn't find enough votes despite the national Democratic Party's support and a House where Democrats have a 71-47 advantage over Republicans.
"I think it is absolutely appalling that certain members of this body are willing to put their re-election interest in front of all interests of the families of the state," said state Rep. Sam Yingling, a Round Lake Beach Democrat and openly gay lawmaker.
Stopping same-sex marriage in a big, reliably Democratic state like Illinois is a major victory for opponents, who have seen a handful of other states approve in recent months.
"There's a lot of emotion here," said state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican. "There were a lot of people in the gallery were disappointed that the vote wasn't called. They feel very strongly they have a right to be married, and it's just not what I believe."
That emotion displayed itself on the House floor via a tearful speech by the legislation's sponosor, Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, and loud yells from onlookers.
Supporters and opponents came from across Illinois to lobby on lawmakers' last scheduled day of session.
"Me and my boyfriend had today off work so we said let's drive all the way down," said Tim Bertucci, 23, of Arlington Heights.
Harris announced he'd put off a vote until November. He said lawmakers appear to be more likely to sign off then.
"I take my colleagues at their words that they shall," Harris said.
Harris' short-term decision not to have a vote might be his best long-term bet to bring same-sex marriages to Illinois.
A failed vote Friday would have forced lawmakers to publicly flip-flop in order to eventually approve. Now, supporters can work in private to try to win people over.
It might be difficult, though. The issue remains hotly controversial.
Both Republicans who have said they'll support it -- state Reps. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein and Ron Sandack of Downers Grove -- have faced immense pressure from religious groups after they went public with their opinions.
Lawmakers who have said they're undecided, like Democratic state Rep. Linda Chapa-LaVia of Aurora, have seen dueling protests by both sides at their district offices.
The Illinois Senate approved same-sex marriage on Valentine's Day, and Gov. Pat Quinn has said he'd sign it into law, so on the last scheduled day of the spring legislative session, the House floor is the last battleground on the issue for now.
Without a vote in November, approving same-sex marriage in Illinois could get more difficult. Next year is an election year, when controversial issues like this one tend to lie dormant.
The debate has carried increased significance in Illinois, where the General Assembly's most famous alumnus -- President Barack Obama -- used his second inaugural address to call for same-sex marriage. And Democrats who control Springfield have support for the issue in their national party platform.
On the Republican side, vocal support of same-sex marriage resulted in pressure that led to the eventual departure of party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles.