A bill seeking to make Illinois the 10th state to legalize gay marriage cleared the Senate on Thursday.

Lawmakers approved the measure with a 34-21 vote and sent it to the House for further consideration.

Neither the Senate nor the House have previously voted on marriage equality. However, Illinois legalized civil unions two years ago.

The bill's champion in the Senate, Senator Heather Steans, a Democrat from Chicago, told colleagues in her opening remarks that “The time has come for Illinois to provide the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.”

“Senate Bill 10 also protects religious freedom,” she said. “No faith can be forced to perform or recognize a same-sex marriage.”

Senator Mark Sandoval, a Democrat from Cicero, said the legislation was an opportunity to bring justice to friends and co-workers. Jesus said “love one another,” Sandoval said. “That means everyone, including those who are gay and lesbian.”

Republican Senator Dale Righter urged against passage, arguing that “fear of what may happen” will cause churches “to pull back on that outreach to people that spend time in places beyond the walls of their church.”

Another opponent, Senator Kyle McCarter, a Republican, said the bill would “jeopardize freedom rather than expanding it” because it would “take away the rights of many.”

(Related: Illinois Sen. Kyle McCarter labeled “bigot” on Wikipedia for opposing gay marriage.)