The timing of a gay marriage bill introduced in the Illinois Senate Thursday is drawing more attention than the issue of gay marriage.

If approved, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans' Equal Marriage Act would legalize gay marriage in the Land of Lincoln. Assemblyman Greg Harris introduced his Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act in January.

Steans has called her senate version a companion bill to Harris'.

But considering the 96th Illinois General Assembly is in its final throes and Harris' bill has languished in the Rules Committee, political opponents – gay and straight – are questioning Steans' political motivations.

Her openly gay opponent Jim Madigan called the bill's introduction a “publicity stunt” to attract gay voters from Chicago's gay neighborhood of “Boys Town,” which is included in the 7th District she represents.

Steans has also sponsored a civil unions bill that grants gay and lesbian couples all the rights, benefits and obligations of marriage without the name. On her website, Steans continues to endorse civil unions, not marriage, for gay couples.

“If the civil union bill does not pass in the General Assembly in these final weeks of the legislative session, Senator Steans will have to explain to voters and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community why she spent her time preparing a publicity opportunity rather than working to persuade legislators to pass the bill that was already teed up for her by two years of my community's time, money and effort,” Madigan, a former executive director of Equality Illinois, told

Steans' Republican opponent went further, calling the move a “politically-motivated pander.”

“It's unfortunate that it took a strong primary challenger from a well-known LGBT activist to force Senator Heather Steans to support equal rights for all Illinois families. Just last year, Senator Steans was willing to settle for politically expedient civil unions, so one has to wonder what's really going on here,” Adam Robinson said in a statement. “While I'm encouraged by Senator Steans' change of heart, I think that our community will see this flip-flop for what it is – a politically-motivated pander to our LGBT families. Our district deserves better.”

While Robinson, a Chicago-area businessman, concedes Republicans in favor of gay marriage – with the exception of gay Republicans – are scarce, he says his support is unequivocal.

“My position is uncommon, and I take a lot of heat for it,” Robinson told On Top Magazine in an email. “In my opinion, there's nothing more important than empowering the creation of strong families. I'm proudly in favor of marriage equality. Across the board, I'm in favor of the government staying out of people's private lives.”

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov applauded the bill, saying he was focused on “building momentum for full equality.”