The Illinois House on Tuesday approved
a bill that would recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil
unions, the AP reported.
The bill's narrow 61-52 vote came after
a lengthy – at times emotional – debate.
Openly gay State Representative Greg
Harris' bill passed out of committee last spring, but lawmakers had
yet to vote on it.
“It's a matter of fairness,” Harris
said. “It's a matter of respect. It's a matter of equality.”
Senators are expected to take up the
bill on Wednesday.
Catholic Church last week urged lawmakers to reject the measure,
arguing that the “public understanding of marriage will be
negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural
fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage.”
But Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who
has said he wants to sign the bill into law this year, said his
Catholic faith “animates me to support this bill.”
least three leading Chicago mayoral candidates have endorsed the
bill, including lawyer Gery Chico, Rahm Emanuel, the former White
House chief of staff, and former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun.
In a statement released Tuesday, Chico
applauded passage of the bill and encouraged lawmakers to legalize
full marriage for gay couples.
“Extending human rights and
responsibilities to committed same-sex couples is not only a matter
of justice and human decency, it is good public policy,” he said.
“However, while tonight is a step in the right direction, our work
is not done. We must not rest until Illinois provides full marriage
equality to all people.”
If approved, Illinois would join New
Jersey in offering the unions. Lawmakers
in Hawaii are also likely to revisit the issue early next year.