CHICAGO (CBS) — The Election Day victories for same-sex marriage in several states have supporters of the effort in Illinois saying the atmosphere has changed, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that he’d lead an effort to legalize same-sex marriages in Illinois as well

“Illinois led the way nationwide with civil unions. This is a first step towards marriage equality, and I hope that we will take that step, and I will lead an effort,” Emanuel said.

Illinois legalized civil unions for same-sex couples last year, granting them many of the same legal rights as married couples, but stopping just short of legalizing gay marriage.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports proponents of same-sex marriage have said — after Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote — it’s now a matter of when – not if – Illinois will join in.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser Reports

There are more pressing issues for lawmakers in Springfield right now, but when the General Assembly does take up the issue, Emanuel said he’ll be twisting arms to get legislators to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.

“I’m going to be very involved,” he said. “Look, I was supportive of it as a congressman. But I think in the last four years we have had a president who signed hate crimes legislation, and an executive order to make sure that hospitals could not discriminate against loved ones and partners who receive federal funds, and then, third, that ended ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in our military, so you could serve your country that you love, as well as loving somebody you love.”

The mayor said he’s been in contact with Illinois State Reps. Greg Harris and Deb Mell – two openly gay lawmakers who have proposed same-sex marriage legislation in Springfield – and legislative leaders in the House and Senate about moving forward with the proposal.

At the moment, there is no timetable for state lawmakers to take up the proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. Harris and Mell introduced the proposed legislation in February, but held off on bringing it to the floor for a vote this year, after determining there weren’t enough votes to pass it.

Supporters believe the Election Day victories in Maine, Maryland and Washington might convince some lawmakers who might have voted against same-sex marriage in the past to approve the measure now.

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