CHICAGO - The Illinois Senate may make the first step down the aisle towards legalizing same sex marriage on Valentine's Day, Senate President John Cullerton said at meeting with the Sun-Times editorial board Thursday.
Not only will State Senator Heather Stean's SB 110 legalize same sex marriage, but it will place new requirements on churches within Illinois. Steans bill mandates that churches open their doors to same sex marriage ceremonies if they allow any other non-church groups to rent their facilities for meetings or events.
In addition, churches that do not accept same sex marriages in their religious tenets will not be allowed to reject church employees based on their sexual behavior if they do not serve a religious or teaching capacity.
Catholic leadership has strongly objected to SB 110's passage, and a growing number of evangelical churches have joined the opposition. Illinois Family Institute is holding pastoral conferences about the proposed legislation and encouraging opponents to merge on the Capitol February 20th.
Cullerton's enthusiasm for SB 110's passage on Valentine's Day is bolstered by the Democrats' gain of five new Senate seats in 2012, giving Democrats a 40 to 19 advantage over Republicans. Downstate Democrats from rural districts have consistently opposed same sex civil unions and marriage, forcing gay rights advocates to look to Republicans for measure passage.
In 2010, the civil unions bill narrowly passed by one vote - that of a Republican, then-State Senator Dan Rutherford, shortly before he was elected as Illinois' state treasurer.