SPRINGFIELD-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan admitted Thursday that votes in the House to legalize same-sex marriage are still short of passage but acknowledged the House is getting closer to sending a bill to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.
"We're a little closer, but we're not yet there. But we're a little closer," Madigan (D-Chicago) told reporters after his plan to resolve the state's pension fiasco inched through the House.
The measure that would allow same-sex couples to marry has been sitting in the House since the Senate narrowly moved it there with an emotional Valentine's Day vote. A couple of weeks later, the bill eked out of a House panel along a 6-5 vote and has been awaiting a full floor vote since then as the bill's chief House sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), continues to work a roll call.
The speaker has long supported same-sex marriage, or 'marriage equality' as he calls it, and posited in March that the vote was a dozen votes shy of passage. A similar bill to the one now in the House failed to gain enough traction during the Legislature's 'lame-duck' session in January, but that was before certain protections for religious organizations were added.
Harris had said in March that he thought the roll call was much closer than the 12-vote gap put forth by Madigan, but the openly-gay sponsor of the bill has been guarded when it comes to revealing the nature of his tally or the timing of when members might be asked to take a vote.
Harris had hoped to make Illinois the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage, but lawmakers in Rhode Island beat him to the punch on Thursday when they advanced a bill to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who said he would sign it. But no matter when Harris' bill is called on the House floor, he has said his measure will pass because most Illinoisans think it's the right thing to do.
Gov. Pat Quinn is also on board with giving same-sex couples the right to marry in Illinois and has said he would sign Harris' bill if it passes the House.