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Marriage equality bill continues to face hurdles in Illinois House

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Marriage equality still faces one major test before it becomes the law of the Land of Lincoln later this year: a full vote in the state House of Representatives.  A proposed bill passed the state Senate 34-21 and later was approved 6-5 by a House committee, and Gov. Pat Quinn, a marriage equality supporter, has vowed to sign the legislation into law.

The bill needs 60 votes to clear the chamber, and advocates have long admitted that the final vote will likely be a tight one.  Even one of the Democrats who voted to advance the bill out of the House Executive Committee–a legislator who had voted in favor of civil unions in 2010–says he will likely vote no on the bill when the full House considers it due to religious exemptions.

Late last week, Chicago Magazine did the math and looked at how the votes might stack up in the House.  (Take a look at their website for a full list of names).

As Chicago points out, the bill has 14 definite yes votes from the bill’s sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.  After that, the magazine predicts 29 likely yes votes from legislators who either voted in favor of civil unions in 2010, were endorsed during their campaign by Equality Illinois, or have said on the record they will support the bill.  That brings the total number of yes votes to 43–17 votes short of a winning number.

On the other side of the issue, there are 18 legislators whom Chicago lists as definite no votes, all sponsors of a mini-DOMA bill considered by the Illinois legislature last summer.  On top of that, there are 37 likely no votes, mostly Republicans but also several Democrats, who either voted against civil unions or have said on the record that they oppose marriage equality.

That leaves 20 toss-up votes, according to the magazine’s analysis.  The legislators in this category include some who have expressed support for LGBT equality in the past and some who have been vague on the issue.  For instance, one legislator has told the Chicago Sun-Times that she is “leaning toward yes.”  Another voted in favor of civil unions and was endorsed by Equality Illinois, but has said he will vote no on the marriage equality bill.

Seventeen votes is a big number of lawmakers to corral, which is why supporters of LGBT equality in Illinois have been engaging in a major push in anticipation of a final vote.  Today, March 4, has been slated a “day of action” for phone-banking and other legislator outreach.  Advocates are hoping for a vote early this month, but have said they will not hold one until the votes have been secured.

The Windy City Times conducted its own whip count and determined that there are 44 yes votes for the bill, with 16 more as possible yes votes.  According to unnamed sources, the bill’s sponsors are close to the 60 needed to secure its passage.

Of course, there could still be–and likely will be–some surprises in the final vote.

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