SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Less than two months into the new year, legislative bodies in two states have passed bills that would legalize gay marriage, while a civil unions bill has made progress in a third state.
The Illinois Senate passed a bill Feb. 14 that would legalize gay marriage, three weeks after the Rhode Island House approved a gay marriage bill. The Colorado Senate passed a civil unions bill Feb. 11. Each bill still must pass the other chamber in each state, but significantly, the Democratic governors of each state support the respective bills. Democrats control the legislatures in all three states.
Gay marriage is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.
The Illinois bill passed by a vote of 34-21, with two members voting present. Illinois already has civil unions, which grant same-sex couples the benefits of marriage, minus the name.
“We are one step closer to marriage equality in Illinois,” Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement after the Senate vote. “Couples across Illinois have even more reason today to celebrate their love for each other, thanks to the hard work of committed advocates and lawmakers.”
The bill’s opponents, though, said the bill would impact religious liberty and parental rights.
“If Illinois legalizes ‘same-sex marriage,’ parents can expect elementary school teachers to include homosexuality in discussions of family and marriage,” Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute wrote. “Some make the absurd argument that since families led by homosexuals exist, schools must teach about them. The truth is, however, that schools have no obligation to teach about every phenomenon that exists, nor do they have to include resources that affirm every phenomenon that exists. Does anyone believe that if a student being raised by polyamorists were enrolled in a public elementary school, teachers or administrators would feel obligated to include books in their libraries that affirm polyamorous family structures?”
Gay marriage legalization, Higgins wrote, will mean that “children will be taught that homosexuality is normative and good.” Society, she said, would be declaring that “children do not have any inherent rights to know and be raised by a mother and a father.”
State Rep. Greg Harris, a Democrat and the lead bill sponsor in the Illinois House, said he believed the bill will pass his chamber, although he declined to say if he has the necessary 60 votes, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“I think we are very close to that,” Harris said.
In Rhode Island, a gay marriage bill passed the House 51-19 in late January, although it faces a more difficult road in the Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed opposes it.
In Colorado, a civil unions bill passed the Senate, 21-14 and is favored to pass in the House.
The news wasn’t all bad for traditionalists, though. In Hawaii, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said in mid-February he would not schedule a hearing on a gay marriage bill, a move that apparently kills the bill for this session, the Star-Advertiser newspaper reported. His colleagues, he said, did not want to bring it up.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)