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Illinois marriage bill clears House committee
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois is headed for a full House vote, after it passed out of committee Feb. 26.

The House Executive Committee voted 6-5 in favor of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

It will now face a full vote on the House floor. The Senate passed the bill on Valentine's Day. If the House passes the bill, it will be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign.

Openly gay bill sponsor Rep. Greg Harris started off the hearing, discussing the many ways that civil unions have fallen short for LGBT couples. He noted that earlier in the day, top U.S. Republicans had signed onto a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the recognition of same-sex marriages.

Harris drove home exemptions in the bill for religious institutions.

Testifying was Rev. B. Herbert Martin of the Progressive Community Church. He said the bill lived up to its name by protecting religious freedom.

"I call on you this evening to protect all Illinois residents under the law," Martin said.

Dr. Rev. Otis Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ said that lawmakers should not confuse "rites" with "rights."

"We are called to live our faith, and not legislate our faith," Moss said.

Moss argued that the bill enhanced the state's values that all should be treated equally under the law.

Also testifying were Ryan Cannon and Daphne Scott-Henderson, a plaintiff couple in a lawsuit that also seeks to overturns the ban on same-sex marriage.

Cannon laid out her family's struggles for recognition under the law and the legal difficulties she, Scott-Henderson and their three children faced.

Dr. Laura Berk, professor of psychology at Illinois State University pointed out that major mental health organizations in the U.S. had found that gay parents to be as effective parents as heterosexual parents.

Jim Covington of the Illinois State Bar Association also spoke in favor of the bill from a legal perspective.

"It is about three things: freedom, fairness and marriage," Covington argued.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse argued that the bill threatened the best interests of children.

"We have reason to doubt the cheerful optimism that you just heard," Morse said, stating that the bill threatened "structural injustice" against children.

"Same-sex marriage redefines parenthood as a side-effect of redefining marriage," she said.

Linda Jahneke of Rescue Ministries testified that she had formerly been gay but was no longer. She said that when she was "homosexual," she did not experience deprivations under the law.

Kelly Frederick, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, said that the bill failed to protect religious freedom. She noted that Catholic Charities lost its state adoption contracts after the charities refused to place children with same-sex civil union spouses.

Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Democrat, said he did not want to be an obstacle for the bill getting to floor but that he opposed it due to religious objections and his constituent desires. He said he would vote it out of committee, but would vote "no" later.

A lengthy debate over concealed carry amendments had stalled a hearing on the bill, originally scheduled for 3:00 p.m., until late in the evening.

Voting for the bill were Daniel Burke, Robert Rita, Greg Harris (replacing Edward Acevedo), Toni Berrios, Keith Farnham and Luis Arroyo.

Voting "no" was Mike Bost (replacing Ed Sullivan, Jr.), Renee Kosel, Joe Sosnowski, Michael Tryon and Democrat Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr.

Apart from Jackson, the committee voted along party lines.

The measure is expected to face its toughest challenge on the House floor, its last hurdle before it is sent to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk. Quinn strongly supports the measure.

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