Windy City Times predicted last year that marriage would be the big story for our community in 2013, but we certainly did not foresee the twists and turns that the story would take.
SB10, the legislation that brought marriage equality to Illinois, passed the state Senate on Valentine's Day, then the House Executive Committee 12 days later. Activists and other supporters spent much of the spring wondering when a vote would finally happen. As the legislative session neared its end in May, many advocates for the legislation said that the votes were finally in place for a floor vote.
But then it didn't happen. On May 31, the bill's chief sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, addressed the floor and said that his colleagues had asked for more time to sell the idea to their constituents back home. The summer was marked by controversy over Harris' decision, but eventually a campaign staff was put into place to coalesce the various parts of the Illinois Unites to Marry coalition.
Rumors continued to fly, though, with many principal players fearing that a vote, promised by Harris for the fall veto session, might be put off until after filing deadlines for the 2014 elections had passed. The March on Springfield for Marriage Equality rally on Oct. 22 brought momentum however, when thousands of supporters showed up to Springfield, lending their support even in the rain and cold weather.
Finally, on Nov. 5, the vote came. After about two-and-a-half hours of debate, a vote did come and SB10 passed 61-54. Among those voting yes were state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, who came from the bedside of her ill son to cast her vote; her son died before she could return home. On Nov. 20, in front of hundreds of the bills' supporters, Gov. Pat Quinn signed SB10 into law using one of Abraham Lincoln's desks.
The veto-session vote, however, was problematic in one respect. Thanks to some tenets of the Illinois Constitution, legislation signed during a veto session cannot take effect until the following June 1meaning Illinoisans could not actually get married for several months. For many couplesparticularly ones in whom a partner had a life-threatening illnessthat was too long to wait. A judge ordered that one such couple, activist Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert, could marry early, and they became the first partners of the same-sex to legally marry in the state Nov. 27. A few weeks later, a federal judge allowed two more couples to marry under similar circumstances, and introduced a streamlined process for any couple dealing with time-sensitive illnesses.