On June 26, the U.S Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision.
This means that same gender couples married in states that legally permit same sex marriage will have the access to the federal rights and benefits equal to that of heterosexual married couples.
Illinois is not one of those states.
In 2011, the Illinois Legislature legalized civil unions. Some legislators clearly said that they supported civil unions because it was a way to bestow similar legal and economic benefits to those living together in a civil union as to those living in marriage. They did not, however, support this as a first step to legalizing same sex marriage. Their perspectives on the sanctimony of marriage as being between a man and a woman, for the most part, have not changed.
What has changed it is a new understanding of the limitations of the concept of legal civil unions as a way to bestowing similar legal and economic benefits to those living in civil union vs. marriage. These came to the forefront on June 26 because, practically speaking, same sex couples joined in a legal civil union in Illinois will not be able to benefit from the economic benefits of the DOMA decision.
Illinois' supporters of SB 10, The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, enthusiastically latched onto the Supreme Court ruling as yet one more powerful reason why Illinois legislators should and would legalize same sex marriage soon. The strong language used to explain the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, words like "human rights" and "dignity," justified rising expectations that the Illinois would join thirteen other states in passing "marriage equality" legislation.
It was a dramatic turn-about from the tone of rage and disappointment when Representative Greg Harris, the lead sponsor of SB 10, decided not to call the bill for a vote on May 31st. His decision was tactical and one he made very reluctantly. Had Representative Harris called the bill, it would have failed to pass and therefore been dead for the rest of the year. By choosing to get an extension for the bill until the end of August, Harris kept hope alive that the bill might still get the 60 votes needed to get it out of the House; where it would be sent to Governor Quinn, who has already committed to signing it.
Will waiting change the outcome?
Illinois is a "true-blue" state when it comes to voting Democratic. The Democratic majorities in the Illinois House, Illinois Senate, and Governor's Office made sure to gerrymander the voting districts so that the State will continue to vote true-blue for the next decade.
But it is middle-of-the-country, as in middle-of-the-road, when it comes to social views.
In 1972, the Illinois State Legislature began debating the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Among women activists, every year between 1972 and 1982, was thought to be THE YEAR that the Illinois Legislature would finally ratify the ERA. It seemed obvious that a state with a sophisticated metropolitan area and a well-organized and vocal women rights movement would be progressive enough to give equal rights to women, in spite of opposition from Phyllis Schlafly. But that didn't happen. In the end, 35 states ratified the amendment, three short of the 38 states needed to add it to the Constitution. Of the twelve Midwestern states, only Missouri and Illinois were hold-outs.
A June 26, 2013 New York Times article commented that Illinois along with Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon are viewed as the five states most likely to pass legislation supporting same sex marriage. I wonder.
Almost all legislators who are not supporting SB 10 cite religious beliefs about the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman. Some are influenced by the Catholic Conference of Illinois and the Bishops who lobbied hard against SB 10. Members of the African-American clergy spoke in favor of marriage between one man and one woman. The Chicago Rabbinical Council, which is an umbrella voice for the Orthodox, stated that they oppose any effort to change the definition of marriage to include same sex unions." Other churches made same similar statements as CRC even as their colleagues, just as CRC's colleagues across the Jewish establishment, came to different decisions about marriage equality.
Looking closer at the Senate vote (34 Yes, 21 No, 2 present, and 2 Non-voting) on SB 10 was illuminating. It was not a Republican vs. Democratic vote though almost Republicans voted against the bill. Some Chicago Democrats didn't support it. There was diversity within the African-American and Southern Illinois Caucuses. Some Democratic Senators who are strong voices for poor people and the disenfranchised did not vote "yes," in spite of the civil rights language of the supporters.
Likewise, some House Republican members, contrary to expectation, said they would vote yes. They cited personal, familial experiences for their vote.
Voting for or against same sex marriage is a vote of conscience. Leadership arm-twisting, constituent pressure, campaign donations, perhaps a primary threat are the usual tactics that change minds. I don't think those tactics trumps one's moral beliefs.
My guess is that the New York Times is wrong; that Illinois will not be in the first wave or even in the first half of States passing legislation to legalize marriage between two adults of the same sex. And that is because of legislators voting their conscience on this particular issue.