US: Illinois Senate could ‘fast track’ and approve equal marriage ‘very soon’

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After the new General Assembly was sworn in in Illinois this week, the House Sponsor of a bill to legalise marriage equality in the state said the measure could come to a vote “very soon”.

State Representative Greg Harris had commented on the legalisation of civil partnerships for gay couples in 2011, which was described as the first step in a long journey towards marriage equality. Harris said that was no longer the case, reports CBS Chicago.

“We are on a fast track to passing marriage equality in the state of Illinois,” he said. Harris said new legislation on equal marriage was coming “very soon.”

Representative Harris and Senator Heather Steans, both Democrats from Chicago, said in December that they hoped to answer Governor Pat Quinn’s wish that he can sign into law equal marriage as early as this month.

He attributed the speeding up of the movement towards full marriage equality to a rapid growth of the support of measures such as the Illinois bill.

“The people of America are ahead of us,” said Harris. “They are doing the right thing. They believe the right thing. The journey is short, because people want it to be short.

“The journey to full marriage is not going to be as long as we thought, because folks have talked to their neighbours, they’ve talked to their clergy people; they’ve decided treating every couple equally in the eyes of the law is the right thing to do.”

He continued that newer, younger lawmakers, could make the difference to make the vote for equal marriage a majority, and ultimately make it legal. He said:

“If you look in the House, you’ve got a lot of people who are younger, and folks who are younger see this as a vote of true equality. It’s something they’ve grown up with, it’s something their kids talk to them about when they come home from school, it’s what people believe in.”

Last week, although Democrats in the state of Illinois delayed a full Senate vote that was planned to make same-sex marriage legal, the Senate Committee approved the bill. Three senators were absent from the House, and so the vote did not move to the floor.

Democrats have increased their numbers in both chambers of the Senate House, which some have said could make it more likely that the bill would pass.

Representative Harris also said that he knew of hundreds of religious leaders from the state who had voiced their support for marriage equality.