Citing the upcoming state redistricting and senators' fears about backlash at the polls, supporters of House Bill 101 announced last week that the measure has been put on hold until next year.
The news prompted an uproar among several activists at last Wednesday's Senate Executive Committee meeting, leading to six arrests for disorderly conduct.
"It's on hold," said Senate sponsor John Cullerton ( D-Chicago ) . "We have enough votes for this bill, I think, if we get it to the Senate floor."
But the bill had to advance beyond the Executive Committee first, and officials said they didn't think the needed support was present Wednesday to make that happen. Cullerton pulled the bill from consideration, buying lobbyists more time.
"Senator Cullerton prevented a defeat," said Equality Illinois Political Director Rick Garcia. "Basically, this was a strategy to keep the bill alive and do the work that needs to be done. This was a good thing."
Garcia noted that activists have had "seven years to lobby the House and five weeks to lobby the Senate."
Equality Illinois plans to continue meeting with senators until the end of the spring session, which ends at the end of May. EI will also spend the summer setting up constituent meetings between pro-gay voters and key senators.
House Bill 101, which would add sexual orientation to the state's Human Rights Act, passed the House 60-55 in March. It cleared a major hurdle by passing out of the Senate Rules Committee in April and was then assigned to the Executive Committee.
Cullerton said in talking to his colleagues in the committee, he found that many of them wanted to support the bill but feared that their vote would be used against them when they face re-election after redistricting. "So by waiting until next year, the bill is still alive," Cullerton said.
That strategy apparently didn't sit well with some activists, who disrupted the Executive Committee meeting when it was announced that the bill was being pulled from consideration.
Four people locked arm-in-arm marched to the front of the meeting and chanted, "No, no, we won't go until we get equality," and "We're your daughters, we're your sons, pass House Bill 101."
Those four and two others, including two minors, were escorted out of the meeting and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. One woman, from Champaign, was also charged with contributing to the criminal delinquency of a minor for bringing a 15-year-old girl to the demonstration.
Garcia stressed that the women are not affiliated with Equality Illinois.