Illinois Senate panel approves gay marriage - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Illinois Senate panel approves gay marriage

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The marriage equality movement scored a moral victory Thursday night at the State Capitol, after approval in a State Senate committee.

SEE: Gay marriage floor vote postponed in Ill. Senate

The Senate Executive Committee passed the legislation Thursday with an 8-5 vote in favor of a gay marriage proposal, sending it to the full Senate.

FOX 32 Political Editor Mike Flannery says it could be back to square one when a new General Assembly takes office later this month and gay rights activists say their focus now will be on the General Assembly's spring session. There is also focus on a lawsuit pending in Cook County.

More than a dozen same-sex couples are asking that Illinois' current ban on gay marriage be declared unconstitutional.

If the measure becomes law, Illinois would become the 10th state to approve same-sex marriage. It would be the first state to adopt it after momentum built following several successes across the nation in the November election and public encouragement from President Barack Obama.

Advocates are pushing for full gay marriage rights just 18 months after the state recognized civil unions. Supporters say they're encouraged because the new House and Senate both have Democratic super-majorities, which are expected to support gay marriage.

Many faith organizations are opposed on religious freedom grounds, arguing the proposal would compel them to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of traditional marriage.

One downstate bishop told the Senate committee that he's concerned a new law could force churches to host same-sex wedding receptions in their halls.

Senate President John Cullerton told senators to be prepared to return Tuesday in case action is needed after a House session.

The Senate canceled a session scheduled for Friday, quitting for the week. The House is scheduled to work Sunday through Wednesday, the final day of the current General Assembly.

Expectations were high that Cullerton's Democrats would approve a gay marriage bill. A committee OK'd the measure Thursday, but backers are uncertain when they'll call it for a floor vote after the proposal hit several unexpected snags.

Another Senate committee approved curbs on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, but those bills haven't yet moved to the floor for action.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn says the Legislature must reform the underfunded state pension systems before finishing Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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