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Steans: marriage push expected soon after February return
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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The Senate sponsor behind a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois says she hopes to move the bill shortly after the senate returns in early February.

Sen. Heather Steans said that she is currently working on revisions to the bill.

"We are working to address concerns expressed with particular language in the bill, and I expect we will take up the marriage bill sometime soon after our return," Steans said in a statement.

Lawmakers had reservations about the bill when sponsors tried to move it to a vote in the lame duck session in early January. Chief among them was whether the bill adequately shielded religious institutions from being forced to perform same-sex weddings.

Sen. Dale Righter argued in committee that the language of the bill was unclear, leaving most churches open to legal action if they refused to perform gay weddings.

"Most churches with which I'm familiar will not qualify," he said in the Senate Executive Committee.

Steans said that bill protects religious freedom and that no church will have to solemnize or consecrate a marriage against its beliefs.

Opponents argued that language in the bill was unclear and said they worried that churches that receive government funds or charge money for weddings could be required to perform same-sex unions.

Rep. Greg Harris, house sponsor of the bill, said the bill prevent any church from performing a marriage against their beliefs.

"What we're working toward is clarifying existing law that protects religious freedom," he said.

Steans said that the measure takes into account pre-existing anti-discrimination law in the Illinois Human Rights Act.

Unsure of the bill earlier in January, was also Republican Sen. Christine Radogno, who has occasionally been seen as supportive on LGBT issues. She voted "no" on the measure in committee, but expressed openness to supporting it with revisions.

Sponsors reintroduced the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" into the new General Assembly this January with the language unchanged.

But Steans said that she and sponsors are currently working with religious leaders to address concerns raised in the bill.

Steans did not say what the specific revisions would include.

The Senate heads back into session Feb. 5.

LGBT advocates have been building support for the bill in recent weeks, while opponents have also stepped up pressure, especially on Republican supporters.

Former congressman Joe Walsh renewed calls for Illinois Republican Chair Pat Brady to step down, after Brady came out in favor of marriage equality. Sen. Jim Oberweis told the Daily Herald that he is trying to gain support to oust Brady.

Brady has indicated to local media that he does not intend to step down.

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