An Illinois Senate committee has approved a bill which seeks to make Illinois the 10th state to legalize gay marriage.

The 15-member Senate Executive Committee approved the bill and sent it to the full Senate for consideration.

A representative from Lambda Legal testifying in support of the bill countered the arguments of opponents, saying nothing in the measure forces a church to marry gay couples.

The action came a day after Senator David Koehler, a Democrat from Peoria, added himself as a chief co-sponsor of the bill.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago and an Executive Committee member, has said he wants his chamber to approve the bill on Valentine's Day.

“I'd like to pass it … on Valentine's Day,” Cullerton told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.

Cullerton added that he believes the measure has the necessary 30 votes to clear the Senate and move to the House.

Sponsors of the bill, Senator Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris, both Democrats from Chicago, first pushed for passage in January during a lame-duck session of the General Assembly.

Steans suggested that the bill's language regarding religious exemptions was to blame for last month's delay.

“I think under the language we're working on, everyone is a lot more comfortable there's no threat of a religious place having to open up to a religious ceremony if they don't want to,” Steans told the Sun-Times.