The Illinois House Executive Committee on Tuesday evening OKed and advanced a bill that would bring legal same-sex marriage to the land of Lincoln.
In a vote of 6-5, the bill was approved and will next head to a full House vote, the final remaining obstacle to passage as Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has already vowed to sign the measure into law.
Committee members voted along party lines -- with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed -- with one exception: Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr., who voted against the bill, the Windy City Times notes. Fellow Democratic Rep. Luis Arroyo said during the hearing that, though he OKed the bill Tuesday to help get it out of committee, he plans to oppose it in the full House on account of his constituents' religious objections.
The vote came much later than anticipated Tuesday evening after state lawmakers took over six hours to consider amendments related to Illinois' mandate to draw up a new concealed carry law in an unrelated session.
The bill -- titled the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, Senate Bill 10 -- was previously approved by the state Senate in a historic Valentine's Day vote. One Republican senator joined 33 Democrats in approving the bill.
A firm date has not yet been set for a full House vote on the proposal, but proponents of the legislation previously indicated that a vote could take place on March 6 or 7.
Bill supporter Rick Garcia, senior policy advisor for LGBT advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda, said in a statement that the measure's Tuesday advance shows that "momentum behind marriage equality just keeps building."
"We have seen an amazing surge of support from all over Illinois. With this historic vote we are one step away from marriage equality. We are still working to get the 60 votes in the house, and we will call the bill the moment we have them," Garcia said.
If the bill achieves the 60 votes needed for passage in the House, which is generally considered to be more conservative than the Senate, it would next head to Gov. Quinn's desk for his signature.
Gov. Quinn also admitted to the Quad City Times on Monday that "there's still persuasion to do in the House" when it comes to lining up "yes" votes. He said he will be contacting lawmakers individually pushing for their support. While Democrats have an overwhelming majority in the state House, the Daily Herald notes that not all Democrats are expected to be on board with the proposal -- including many downstate lawmakers.
The matter has even found its way into a flap over Pat Brady's tenure as the state GOP's chairman. Brady has postponed a high-profile fundraiser with national Republican chairman Reince Priebus amid reports that the state's Republican Central Committee will be calling a meeting to oust Brady from his post due to his decision to break with the party's platform and express his personal support for marriage equality.
Illinois has had civil unions available for same-sex couples since June 2011. If the bill is signed into law, the measure would make Illinois the tenth U.S. state to offer legal same-sex marriage.