Gay marriage now legal in Illinois; Quinn signs same-sex marriage bill into law

November 20, 2013 (CHICAGO)

On Wednesday, Illinois became the 16th state to allow same-sex marriages. The law goes into effect in summer 2014.

"Illinois does not have a situation where individuals are discriminated against in any way when it comes to love and marriage," Gov. Quinn said.

At the signing at UIC, Quinn was joined by dozens of elected officials, including Secretary of State Jesse White, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

"Love never fails. And I'm going to sign this bill right now," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

The governor was all at once the master of ceremonies and star of the show when he signed the religious freedom and marriage fairness act in front of an estimated 2,000 people at UIC Forum.

"Marriage equality is about two American principles: fairness and freedom," Madigan said.

"We're just completely overjoyed," said Suzie Hutton, gay marriage supporter.

"I can't even explain it, unbelievable," said Danielle Cook, gay marriage supporter.

"There's no straight or gay marriage in Illinois. From now on, there's only marriage in Illinois," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

A parade of Democrats spoke before the signing. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka-- the only Republican-- noted how critical her party's three votes were to passing the bill earlier this month in the Illinois House.

"It takes both parties to make something happen. And when we work together, look what we can do," said Baar Topinka.

But Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle-- who wants Democrat Quinn re-elected next year-- took a partisan view.

"I would point out that none of the Republican candidates for Governor have been willing to stand up on this issue," said Preckwinkle.

Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011.

"It takes both parties to make something happen. And when we work together, look at what we can do," Topinka said. She also offered to be a flower girl, free of charge.

"As a history teacher, I believe marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time," Preckwinkle said.

"There is no straight or gay marriage. From now on there is only marriage in Illinois," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "To have a forward-moving state, you cannot have backward-looking laws that discriminate against good and talented people, regardless of their sexual orientation."

When the law takes effect June 1, same-sex couples can apply for marriage licenses. That's a Sunday, but officials say Cook County will be open for business- and they expect long lines. Jim Darby and Patrick Ova are one of the couples that plans to marry. They've been together 50 years.

While they don't think marriage will change their commitment, they say it will change their legal rights.

"The nurse said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'I'm his partner.' She said, 'Are you family?' I said, 'I'm his partner, no.' 'Are you related?' 'No. I'm his partner.' She said, 'You can't be here,'" Darby said.

After their wedding, Darby and Bova will have the same rights as any married couple.

"So it's very clear that we are married in a state that sanctions gay marriage and therefore we are in line for the practical results of being married. Veteran benefits are one of them," Bova said.

Hundreds of people attended the gay marriage signing. Most were celebrating outside the UIC.

"It's so exciting and such a special day. And I knew it was going to come," Laura Kane said.

"Love is love. God is love. Whoever wants to marry whomever, they should be able to," Audrey Adams said.

During the legal battle to approve the same-sex marriage bill, some religious groups and other organizations were vocal in their opposition. Only a handful of protestors showed up at the bill signing.

Meanwhile, religious opponents vowed to continue fighting the new law in court.

"We're stuck doing all this because the General Assembly didn't do its job of setting down clear protections for people of faith," said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society.

"We recognize that our fight for equality is not at an end because we know that it is one thing to change the law but it is quite another to change minds," said Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General.

"Is a kindergarten teacher going to be forced, even though she is an evangelical Christian, to teach children that same sex relationships are the same as opposite sex marriages?" Breen said. "My great fear is that by taking away the maleness and femaleness we're going to lose that message that moms and dads together are important for raising children."

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