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Illinois Marriage Advances


By Matt Baume

An exciting start to the year, with a win and a setback in Illinois. Two brand new marriage bills are on the fast track in Rhode Island. And a Congressional bill to repeal DOMA has picked up two more Republican endorsements, but one of them doesn’t quite count.

We’re starting the year with some fast-moving developments in Illinois. Organizers there tried and failed to pass a marriage bill before the end of the previous legislative session. Although it didn’t come to the full floor, the bill did pass a vote in the Executive Committee.

That’s an important milestone that adds to bill’s momentum in the new session, which starts January 9. Democrats hold a majority in the Illinois legislature, but votes may cross the expected party lines on this issue. For example, Pat Brady, the chairman of the state Republican Party, has urged passage of the marriage bill, albeit as a private citizen and not in his capacity as chair.

The bill could be introduced at any time in the new session, and it’s likely going to be a very close vote. If you live in Illinois or know anyone who does, now is a crucial time to get involved. Visit Equality Illinois at for more info.

Meanwhile, legislators in Rhode Island have introduced marriage bills in both chambers. Representative Gordon Fox expects the bill to reach a full House vote by the end of this month. If it passes the House, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed will allow a Senate Judiciary Committee vote. She has opposed marriage equality in the past. That committee vote would be followed by a full Senate vote. And then the signature of Governor Lincoln Chaffee, who supports the freedom to marry.

Minnesota is also likely to tackle marriage this year, but not right away. Organizers there have said they’ll wait until some economic issues can be settled before introducing marriage bills. Estimates are that they’ll appear in late spring.

While those states move towards equality, marriages have started in Washington, Maryland and Maine. We don’t have a tally yet on the number of licenses issued, but couples were lined up at midnight in both states.

Of course, those state marriages still can’t be recognized by the federal government due to the Defense of Marriage Act. House Republicans have authorized additional spending to defend the anti-gay law. The US Supreme Court will hear challenges to DOMA and to Prop 8 in its current term, and could overturn both.

But in case DOMA isn’t overturned, Congress is working on a legislative repeal, known as the Respect for Marriage Act. This week that bill picked up two important endorsements, both from Republicans. Representative Richard Hanna is a first-term legislator from New York, and he told The Advocate, “The federal government has a responsibility to ensure all legally married couples are treated equally under federal law.”

The second legislator is Representative Charles Bass of New Hampshire. Or at least, he was a representative. Bass endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act after losing his re-election and only a few days before the end of his term. But even though he’s now out of office, it’s noteworthy that DOMA repeal continues to build Republican support. Bass will be replaced in the House by Democrat Ann Kuster, a strong ally to the LGBT community.

All of these situations, particularly in Illinois, are likely to change very quickly in the coming days. Subscribe here on YouTube and at for breaking news alerts. We’ll also have the most up-to-date information on the upcoming arguments before the Supreme Court.



  • 1. truthspew  |  January 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    If RI gets marriage equality I'll be shocked. Having been involved since 2009 I know our legislators are for the most part cowards who think the Catholic church still holds power in the state.

  • 2. Stefan  |  January 7, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    I read an article several weeks ago which explained that the likely makup of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be favorable to same-sex marriage legislation.

    In the Senate it already has the support of two Republicans as well.

  • 3. Aloha  |  January 7, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Who introduced the DOMA repeal bill in the House? Can't find it on THOMAS.

  • 4. Mike in Baltimore  |  January 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    On March 16, 2011 Gerald Nadler introduced H.R. 1116, the 'Respect for Marriage Act'. It now has 160 co-sponsors (although since it was introduced in the 112th, and we are now in the 113th Congress, the process must be started again, although it will be very easy to get the co-sponsors to be co-sponsors again). 58 more votes are required for passage.

    On that same March 2011 date, Diana Feinstein introduced S.598, also titled the "Respect for Marriage Act'. Beyond the same title, I haven't examined the two bill enough to see if there were differences or not (and even when on the floor of the House or Senate, it does not rule out changes through amendment.) The bill had 32 co-sponsors (18 short of 50, and then with Joe Biden's vote, 51 to pass the Senate). Again, though, it was introduced in the 112th Congress, thus it must be introduced again to pass the 113th.

  • 5. Seth From Maryland  |  January 9, 2013 at 6:56 am

    Marriage Equality Bills to Be Reintroduced in Illinois Today
    After last week's false start in which a marriage equality bill was successfully passed out of the Senate Exectuvie Committee in an 8-5 vote shortly before the session ran out of time, Illinois lawmakers plan to reintroduce two new bills today, the coalition Illinois Unites for Marriage reports:
    Today, the legislative sponsors of the Illinois marriage equality bill plan to file Senate and House bills that would grant all Illinois couples the freedom to marry. On the first day of the new legislative session, sponsors Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) say they will work to pass the legislation, known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, shortly after members of the 98th General Assembly are sworn in.
    Read more:

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