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Rep. Harris Pulls Same-Sex Marriage Bill, Says Votes Are Not There

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Ill.)

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Ill.) (Credit: CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has pulled his bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, but he says in a published report that he will introduce legislation again when the time is right.

In February, Harris introduced a bill that would give same-sex couples full marriage rights in Illinois.

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, H.B. 5170, would have declared that “all laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children; parties to a marriage and their children, regardless of whether the marriage is of a same-sex or different-sex couple, have the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”

But Harris has since decided not to bring the bill to the floor for a vote during the spring legislative session.

He told the Chicago Phoenix that the votes to pass the bill “aren’t there,” and there would be no benefit to having some legislators vote “no” when in the future, they could change their minds and vote “yes.”

Harris is the chairman of the House Human Services Committee, and has the authority to decide when the bill will come to the full House for a vote. He tells the Phoenix he will do so “when I think the time I strategically right,” and that time is now.

Harris tells the Phoenix that he will introduce a new same-sex marriage bill in the coming legislative session, unless some unforeseen “opportunity” makes him decide to move H.B. 5170 forward, the Phoenix reported.

In the wake of Harris’ decision, the Chicago Sun-Times expressed hope in a Friday editorial that the fight for marriage equality would continue, and ultimately end in victory. The newspaper said lawmakers “all but knew their latest bill… would get no traction, especially in an election year.”

The Sun-Times adds that the latest poll in Illinois, taken in 2010, shows that only a third of registered voters support same-sex marriage. But the newspaper says gay rights activists have always known that “changing enough hearts and minds” is the key to effecting social change.

“Eight states and the District of Columbia have approved gay marriage,” the Sun-Times said. “We look forward to the day when Illinois joins them.”

Harris was also the lead architect of bill that legalized civil unions in Illinois last year. He has introduced bills for full same-sex marriage rights previously, but has not been successful.

Currently, the State of Illinois still bans same-sex marriage by statute. But last year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples.

Full same-sex marriage rights are currently available in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, and the District of Columbia. Laws permitting same-sex marriages are also set to take effect later this year in Washington state, and at the beginning of next year in Maryland.