The Illinois Senate has voted to legalize gay marriage, advancing a proposal that would make the state the 10th in the nation allowing same-sex couples to wed.
In a 34-21 vote Thursday, lawmakers approved a measure to lift a state ban on same-sex marriage. The bill now moves to the House, where Democrats also hold a majority.
The Valentine's Day vote came amid concerns from Republicans that the bill would force religious organizations to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their fellowship halls, parish centers or even in their sanctuaries. Bishops in Illinois, led by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, also have said they oppose the idea as against the "natural order."
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he will sign the bill if the House approves it.
The roll call vote shows Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, among those voting in favor of the measure and Republicans Dave Syverson of Rockford and Tim Bivins of Dixon among those opposing.
Bivins, a former sheriff who occasionally preaches from a church pulpit, argued vehemently against allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Bivins sought to buttress his position with historical comments ranging from those of Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation's founders, to Jesus Christ and Elijah, major figures in the Bible's New and Old Testaments.
"We're knocking down one of the basic foundations of society," Bivins said.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, argued the legislation is needed to eliminate the "second-class status" of gay and lesbian couples because same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons as heterosexual couples, including love.
The law will not require ministers to perform a marriage of gay couples. Nor will church officials have to require facilities of churches, such as parish or fellowship halls, to be used by gay couples against the wishes of a religious group, Steans said.