With the Illinois House just minutes away from adjournment Friday evening (May 31), the openly gay sponsor of a marriage equality bill announced that he would not bring the legislation to the floor. The reason, he said, was that some colleagues asked for more time to discuss the issue with their constituents.
The representatives had more than three months to discuss the issue since the state senate passed the marriage equality bill in February. But the state house turned out to be a harder nut to crack.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Harris, needed 60 votes to send the measure to Governor Pat Quinn, who had promised to sign it. And although a week or more ago, supporters suggested they had the 60 votes, Harris did not bring the bill to the floor.
“I apologize to the families who were hoping to wake up tomorrow as full and equal citizens of this state,” said Harris, his voice choking Friday evening on the floor.
Observers in the chamber gallery could be heard shouting their protest as Harris announced he would not seek a vote.
Many people anticipated the house vote Friday, the last day of the Illinois legislature’s session, would make Illinois the 13th state to provide for equal treatment of same-sex couples in marriage licensing. President Obama, in Chicago this week for a fundraiser, had urged passage of the bill, as had many other high-profile politicians, including former President Bill Clinton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
And three other state legislatures had approved marriage equality bills in May –Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota.
Some political head-counters blamed the 20-member black caucus in the Illinois House for withholding it support. Only nine of the twenty had indicated they would or might vote for the bill. And many were reportedly targeted for heavily lobbying by religious-affiliated groups and robo-calling. But only two of 47 Republicans indicated they would vote for the measure, so Democrats had to muster 82 percent of their members behind the bill to succeed.
Harris said he hopes to get a vote on the measure when the legislature convenes for a session in November.