Illinois is slated to become the tenth state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. The Illinois Senate approved the measure 34 – 21 in a historic Valentine’s Day vote. The bill (SB 10) will now be considered by the House.
During debate preceding the vote, dissenting Republicans continued to propagate a number of tired falsehoods about marriage equality. Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) struggled to understand the definition of “public accommodation” and the phrase “very real,” citing the “very real situation… somewhere down the line” in which a same-sex couple wishing to use a religious facility for a marriage celebration is denied and subsequently files suit. This, of course, is not a “very real” situation, but rather a hypothetical one. Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), who sponsored the measure, replied succinctly, “That facility would not need to be made available for anything it chooses not to be.” Righter proposed several more “very real questions,” before Steans shut him down: “I am not going to answer your hypotheticals, Senator.”
Perhaps the most laughable objection to the bill came from Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon). In an I’m-not-a-bigot-because-I-have-gay-friends moment, McCarter talked about taking his sweetheart out on Valentine’s Day to a restaurant they like that is “owned by a gay couple.” And McCarter says the gay couple doesn’t even care about marriage equality and didn’t even bring it up because “they are our friends,” you guys.
The chamber erupted in laughter again when McCarter suggested that bed-and-breakfasts and florists are in danger should marriage equality come to Illinois: “They will choose—most of them—to dissolve their businesses,” he said. Because gay people hate flowers. Also, said McCarter, marriage equality is “confusing for children” who might learn that gay people exist and sometimes fall in love.
Several senators spoke of gay family members who had influenced their vote, including Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). An ordained clergyman in the United Church of Christ, Koehler also noted that their is not a singular conclusion in terms of religious views on same-sex marriage. The United Church of Christ, a Protestant Christian denomination, sanctifies same-sex unions.
Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, indicated he would sign the bill, saying earlier this month that “marriage equality is a matter of fairness and equal rights under law.”