The prospects of a civil unions bill becoming law in Illinois are brighter Thursday with the reelection of Governor Pat Quinn.

The Associated Press gave the race to Quinn on Thursday afternoon, but Republican rival Senator Bill Brady has yet to concede. Brady believes he can still overcome Quinn's 19,500 lead from remaining absentee ballots. But an analysis by the AP shows the feat does not appear to be statistically possible.

Quinn's win is meaningful for Illinois' gay and lesbian community, which is counting on the governor to support a civil unions bill.

In a response to a Daily Herald editorial endorsement interview, Quinn said he was looking forward to signing the bill before Christmas.

“The votes are there, I believe. In the Senate for sure, and definitely I think we can do it in the House.”

“I think we can pass it this year,” he added. “I would like to see it voted on earlier.”

Openly gay Illinois State Representative Greg Harris' civil unions bill passed out of committee in the spring, but lawmakers have yet to vote on it.

Brady, who supports efforts to put an amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union in the Illinois State Constitution, wasn't likely to sign the bill as governor.

Lawmakers have suggested they'll take up the bill during the Legislature's lame-duck session before the end of the year.

Harris and state Senator Heather Steans have also introduced bills that would legalize gay marriage.

Supporters of civil unions, which give gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights as marriage, point to polls that indicate stronger support for the unions than marriage.

Quinn, however, said he would back a gay marriage bill if “the voters of Illinois want to have it come to pass.”

Quinn enjoyed the support of Equality Illinois, the state's largest gay rights advocate, which distributed 450,000 absentee ballot applications.

“I am so proud that Equality Illinois was able to play the key role in re-electing Governor Quinn,” Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of the group, told “We amassed an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort, energizing thousands of voters.”