But, Illinois is not the only state taking steps to provide equal marriage rights to all its citizens. Minnesota, Oregon, Hawaii and Delaware are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the three states whose voters legalized same-sex marriage during the November election. New Jersey is also making strides to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a marriage-equality bill.
This Valentine’s Day brought excitement for LGBT and ally citizens in Illinois, as the state Senate approved same-sex marriage legislation in a 34-21 vote, two years after the state legalized civil unions. Although the measure was expected to struggle in the House, the House Executive Committee approved it Feb. 26 in a 6-5 vote.
The bill will next move to the full House and, if approved, on to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pledged to sign it.
On Wednesday, Minnesota lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in that state, along with a Republican cosponsor, Sen. Branden Peterson, who said he plans to add language to the measure that would emphasize that religious organizations have the freedom to refuse to perform same-sex unions. Voters in Minnesota last fall defeated an effort to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
Delaware is also slowly gearing up to make marriage equality a reality in the traditionally blue state.
According to Equality Delaware president Lisa Goodman, the organization is currently building a new coalition to support marriage equality.
“We engaged in this type of effort two years ago with the civil-union bill and we are pleased to say we are building a larger and more robust coalition around marriage,” she said.
Last week, Equality Delaware announced marriage-equality endorsements from Delaware State AFL-CIO, the Delaware Building and Construction Trades Council and Delaware Public Employees Council 81-AFSCME.
Goodman said with the addition of the three labor organizations, she is hopeful that more organizations will sign on to the coalition.
“We feel that the momentum is in favor of adopting marriage equality later in session,” she said. “A bill will be coming.”
Goodman noted that Gov. Jack Markell even hinted at marriage equality in his inaugural speech.
New Jersey saw disappointment in 2012 when the legislature passed a marriage-equality bill that Christie ultimately vetoed. Lawmakers, who passed the bill in the Senate with a 24-16 vote and the Assembly with a 42-33 vote, will have until January 2014 to override the veto.
According to out Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D), the prime sponsor of the legislation, the bill will need the support of 12 new Republicans in the Assembly and three in the Senate to override the veto.
Gusciora said he believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be posed to voters, as it was in the November election for Maryland, Maine and Washington. He has introduced legislation to authorize that process, should the veto override not be successful.
There is also a pending state-court challenge against New Jersey’s civil-union law.
“You never know what the state court is going to do, but there is no guarantee that anything will be done anytime soon,” he said. “I think that when the time is right to have that public discourse, we will vote to approve marriage equality.”
Oregon is also gearing up for a marriage-equality fight.
Oregon United for Marriage submitted 2,000 sponsorship signatures to the Secretary of State Elections office Feb. 19, twice the number needed to get the issue onto the November 2014 ballot.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Gov. Barbara Roberts were among the signatories. In December, a Public Policy Poll found that more than 54 percent of voters were in favor of marriage equality and 40 percent were opposed.
Hawaii may also have to wait until 2014 for marriage equality.
The Feb.12 deadline for the Hawaii legislature to schedule a hearing on the marriage-equality bill passed without action. But Hawaii United for Marriage said their work was not over.
“We commit today to expanding the conversation, strengthening our coalition and uniting the people of Hawaii behind the vision that all families — gay or straight — should receive equal treatment under the law. We look forward to continuing our mission to ensure passage of the bill,” the organization said in a statement.
Currently Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C., are the only jurisdictions to allow same-sex marriage.