A push to allow gay marriage in Illinois has failed, despite last-minute urging from US President Barack Obama and months of lobbying efforts to make the solidly Democratic, Midwestern state the 13th in the US to approve it.
The bill’s tearful sponsor failed to rally enough support to call it for a vote before the legislature adjourned on Friday.
Representative Greg Harris said he did not have the needed 60 votes. Some colleagues had asked for more time to gauge constituents’ support.
“I’ve never been sadder to accept such a request, but I have to keep my eye, as we all must, on the ultimate prize,” Harris said, referring to eventual passage.
“They’ve asked for time to go back to their districts, talk to their constituents, and reach out to their minds and hearts,” he added.
Some gay marriage supporters, who had packed the gallery in anticipation of a vote, immediately shouted: “Call the vote! Call the vote,” and: “Shame!”
The state senate had approved the measure on Valentine’s Day and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had pledged to sign it into law.
Jim Bennett, the regional director of gay rights group Lambda Legal, called the lack of vote unacceptable.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois, which opposes gay marriage, said in a statement that the state’s bishops were “profoundly grateful” that lawmakers “listened to their constituents and declined to consider legislation that would redefine marriage in Illinois.”
When the year began, proponents were pushing to make Illinois the 10th state to adopt gay marriage, just two years after approving civil unions. However, three other states — Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island — have since embraced same-sex marriage.
On Wednesday last week, Obama urged the legislators of his home state to approve the measure at a fundraising event in Chicago.
“Here in Illinois, we’ve got a vote on same-sex marriage that’s going to be coming up in the state legislature,” Obama told the attendees. “And I just want to say for the record it’s something that I deeply support.”
Some of the strongest opposition to the bill came from prominent pastors of several large black churches in the Chicago area.
The bill had been altered to say churches would be immune from being sued should they refuse to provide their religious facilities to celebrate a same-sex wedding, but businesses, healthcare and educational facilities, and social service agencies were not exempt.