Illinois House passes the freedom to marry


John Kohlhepp, Campaign Manager, 217.502.4166

Bernard Cherkasov, Equality Illinois - 312.520.4919

Erik Roldan, Lambda Legal - 312.545.8140

Edwin C. Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois - 312.201.9740, x305

Anthony Martinez, The Civil Rights Agenda, 312.863.9632

Illinois House Approves Freedom to Marry For Gay and Lesbian Families

Historic vote passes with a count of 61-54; Bill now moves to Senate for approval and expected to be signed into law by Governor

SPRINGFIELD – November 6, 2013 – In a major legislative victory that secures equal treatment for all families under the law in our state, the Illinois House passed Senate Bill 10 with a historic vote today that will make Illinois the 15th state to recognize the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples.  As excited and emotional same-sex couples looked on, the bill’s sponsors thanked the many people involved in getting the legislation passed.  The bill – the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act – now returns to the Illinois Senate for final approval then moves to the desk of Governor Pat Quinn, who has vowed to sign it into law as soon as he can.

“Today is an important and historic day for the State of Illinois and for the rest of our country.  Our neighbors, our colleagues, our family members and friends – everyone in our state will now enjoy the freedom to marry.  I want to thank our many coalition partners, staff and state-wide community partners, including the thousands from the faith, African-American and Latino communities.  We couldn’t have done it without you,” said John Kohlhepp, Campaign Manager for Illinois Unites for Marriage.  “We look forward to the Illinois Senate’s approval and Governor Quinn quickly signing this momentous legislation into law.”

“I want to thank the thousands of wonderful families across the State of Illinois, throughout all our 102 counties who stood up for fairness, for justice and equality and made today’s victory possible. I want to thank my colleagues who will proudly remember that they voted on the right side of history. I want to thank the faith leaders, the business leaders and civic leaders who made their voices heard. And in particular I want to thank Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, whose tireless efforts in the last week made today possible.” said Chief House sponsor Sen. Greg Harris (D-Chicago).

Once the Governor signs the bill, it will go into effect on June 1, 2014 and will be implemented by 102 county clerks statewide.

“With this vote, the Illinois General Assembly now recognizes that thousands of couples all across Illinois deserve the dignity and universal recognition of marriage for their loving committed relationships and their children,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.  “Thank you to our sponsors Rep. Greg Harris, Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton, as well as legislators from both sides of the aisle.”

“In June, the U.S. Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said excluding gays and lesbians from marriage ‘humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples,’” said Jim Bennett, Illinois Unites chair and Midwest Regional Director for Lambda Legal.   “The victory today illustrates this isn’t just about the legal protections marriage affords. It’s about dignity, equality and fairness before the law.”

“There is no single individual or organization responsible for this victory — it was a collective effort inspired by families and couples who stepped forward and shared their stories,” said Ed Yohnka of the ACLU.  “As we look forward to a very happy summer of 2014 — filled with joyous weddings — we also know that there are other states where we need to work for marriage equality. We will celebrate tonight and begin that work tomorrow. ”

“I feel overjoyed to be a witness to this historic moment.  For the past two years we have been working to guarantee that every person, every couple, every family, is treated equally under the law. I’m proud of our legislature and our state; Illinois, the state that gave us Lincoln, who led the fight to end slavery, and Obama, the first African-American President and the only sitting president to support and promote marriage equality. Illinois has proven once again that we are all created equal,” said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda.

“In a truly momentous day today, the State of Illinois bravely stood up for equality for all Illinois citizens.  For nearly 100 years, the Chicago Urban League has been standing up for equality for African-Americans and all who experience discrimination and we have been a proud partner in this campaign to secure the freedom to marry for all in Illinois,” Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of Chicago Urban League.

 “Today’s vote by the Illinois House means the Land of Lincoln will be our nation’s fifteenth freedom to marry state. This is great news for the thousands of committed same-sex couples in Illinois who will now be able to make the ultimate vow before their friends and family, protected and supported by their marriage. It also represents tremendous momentum, with another victory in the heartland and our sixth state victory in 2013,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign manager for Freedom to Marry.  Freedom to Marry is proud to be a lead partner in Illinois Unites for Marriage and we thank the tireless leadership of lead bill sponsors in the House and Senate and all of whom played crucial roles in advancing the legislation.”

“With today’s historic vote, soon all Illinoisans will enjoy the freedom to marry.  This tremendous bipartisan victory will make life better for countless Illinois families and once again reinforce the bedrock American principle that all people deserve to be treated equally under the law.  Thanks to the courageous legislators in both political parties who followed their consciences and took a stand to advance freedom,” said Jeff Cook-McCormac, Senior Advisor for the American Unity Fund.

“The years of thankless work by so many advocates and allies, legislators have brought a great victory for equality to the Land of Lincoln,” said Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign National Field Director.

Illinois Unites for Marriage, the coalition supporting the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples –strong with business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American and Latino leaders, Republicans and Democrats – worked tirelessly in a statewide campaign in support of the bill.   Since the Illinois House failed to vote back on May 31, 2013, the coalition developed a renewed strategy to engage with voters who support the freedom to marry.

Throughout the campaign, thousands of Illinois couples and families reached out to their legislators and several were featured in heartfelt videos and emails.  Among the couples and families profiled throughout the campaign and who are celebrating today are: Chai Wolfman and Mandi Hinkley, whose twin girls will now be protected fully under the law; James Darby and Patrick Bova, who will marry after 50 years together with the knowledge they will be laid to rest next to each other at the Abraham Lincoln Veterans Cemetery; Rev. Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards, who plan to celebrate their 10th anniversary by being married in their church; and Lauren Peters and Tressa Feher, who just welcomed their first child Gloria into the world.

Information about the legislation and the next steps in implementation is available at


For additional information, contact Eric Herman at 773.405.8124.