Illinois' gay marriage bill is headed for a full Senate vote after the measure passed easily out of the Senate Executive Committee Feb. 5.
The Committee voted 9-5 to send to the bill for a full vote.
Senate sponsor Heather Steans argued that civil unions, passed two years, created a second class status for LGBT couples.
"Same-sex couples want to marry for the reasons we all do," Steans said. "It's an institution that's fundamental to our culture."
Pastor Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle, who testified in favor of the bill, echoed that sentiment.
"There cannot be freedom for some," she said. "It is either freedom for all or freedom for none."
Joe LaRue of the Alliance Defending Freedom argued that the bill failed to adequately protect churches.
"I am extremely concerned that it does not do enough," LaRue said.
LaRue said while the bill purported to protect religious institutions, it threatened to discriminate against them. He said the bill lacked protections for businesses who disagreed with same-sex marriages like cake bakers.
Sen. Kwame Raoul questioned LaRue on whether or not a church had filed suit for being forced to perform a same-sex civil union. LaRue said he was aware of none.
Sen. Matt Murphy argued that he worried that churches will be dragged into court one by one if the bill passed as written. But Committee Chairman Don Harmon said he did not believe the advent of civil unions caused a slew of lawsuits against churches.
Steans has said repeatedly that no church will be forced to perform a same-sex marriage against its beliefs.
Feb. 5 marked the first opportunity for sponsors to move the bill as lawmakers have been out of session since being sworn in last month.
Senate President John Cullerton has said he wants a full Senate vote on the bill on Valentine's Day.
LGBT groups predict the bill could be passed out of both houses by the end of the month.
Tuesday's vote marked the second push for the bill. An effort to pass it last month during the General Assembly's lame duck session fell short. The bill passed out of the Senate Executive Committee, but time ran out before sponsors were able to bring it to a full vote.
Steans reintroduced the bill at the first possible moment, after a new Democratic supermajority was sworn into office in January.
Steans said she has since been working with religious leaders on the language of bill.
But despite resistance from opponents, the bill passed through committee with stronger support than it saw last month.
"The opponents of the bill were struggling to come up with a coherent argument against the bill," said Bernard Cherkasov of Equality Illinois. "It was great."
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