UPDATED: 1/2/2013 – 8:52 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A push to legalize same-sex marriages in Illinois hit a slight snag on Wednesday, but supporters sounded confident the measure would move forward on Thursday.
Sponsors of same-sex marriage legislation in the Illinois Senate fell two votes shy of holding an immediate committee hearing on the matter Wednesday evening, but supporters said they would try again on Thursday, when two senators who were absent would likely give them the votes they need to get the proposal moving.
If lawmakers pass the measure, Illinois would become the 10th state to approve same-sex marriages. President Barack Obama has urged Illinois lawmakers to approve the measure.
Rick Kautz and Larry Jacobsen started their life as a couple in Chicago 30 years ago.
“I just can’t imagine a day without him,” Kautz said.
They grew up when celebrating love and pride as gay men was not only shunned, it was punished.
“It always gets to me when people say you choose to be this way. I don’t know anybody that would choose to be, want to be beat up, to be spit on, to not be able to basically be the person that they are,” Kautz said. “Being brought up with that way of you are not acceptable in society, you’re not accepted. That’s why we don’t hold hands, we don’t kiss. We’ve never kissed in front of family and everything.”
Jacobsen said, “Somebody might try to hassle you on the street, because they thought you were gay, and pick a fight with you or something, and it’s better to just walk away.”
Their dream of seeing gay marriage legalized in Illinois might have hit a speed bump, but Jacobsen said, “It means the world to me, because I know that the support system is in its beginning stages.”
With a first vote on same-sex marriage legislation potentially hours away, there were calls for action from both sides of the debate on Wednesday.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said “I’m certainly very hopeful” lawmakers will approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Simon’s optimism was shared by proponents of same-sex marriage, who have launched an offensive, urging Illinois residents to call their lawmakers and urge them to support the measure.
Supporters of gay marriage also got some help from Hollywood.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays openly gay father Mitchell Pritchett on “Modern Family,” will be in Chicago and Springfield to partake in Bow Tie Lobby Day.
“I am looking forward to raising a family and having our kids grow up in an equal America,” Ferguson said.
In real life, Ferguson is engaged to be married to his partner, Justin, who will join him in Springfield to rally support for same-sex marriage.
“I just think there’s always power in numbers, and anytime you can make that noise as a group, as a community, It’s really powerful,” Ferguson said.
Simon will also help urge lawmakers to approve the proposal.
Asked about the chances for passage, Simon said, “I wish I were an odds-maker so I could tell you, but I am optimistic. … I am pleased to be part of the effort.”
Opposition groups were also making noise on Wednesday, including several religious leaders who have been ramping up efforts to kill the bill, claiming same-sex marriages defy nature.
Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society, said, “We’ve got men, we’ve got women, we’ve got them for a reason. And you can look at the plan there, and say they were supposed to get together in permanent unions for their lives, and to … beget and raise kids.”
Simon countered, “Reproduction is certainly important, but we have all sorts of laws that put together families in ways that aren’t strictly natural.”
Attorney Paul Caprio, director of Family PAC – which is part of a coalition opposing same-sex marriage – said opposition to the measure continues to grow, especially from religious groups that believe the law would force them to perform and recognize gay marriages.
“I’m very enthusiastic, and the question is – for many of these legislators – are they going to do what their constituents want them to do, or are they going to do what their political bosses want them to do?” Caprio said.
However, the measure introduced to the Illinois Senate specifically states that any religious organization “is free to choose which marriages it will solemnize.”
It also states that no religious organization would be required to allow its facilities to be used to perform any marriage that conflicts with its religious beliefs.
Cardinal Francis George also was stepping up his efforts to block it.
He issued a letter opposing gay marriage and encouraged Catholics to get involved.
In a statement, the Archdiocese of Chicago said, “The state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible.”
Opponents delivered a petition to every state lawmaker Wednesday afternoon, signed by leaders of 1,700 hundred faith communities, from Catholics to Muslims.
However, Democratic Sen. Heather Steans, who was sponsoring the bill, said having the state recognize same-sex marriages it is a legal matter, not a religious one.
Supporters of same-sex marriage also got a boost Wednesday from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady, who said he wants to see the legislation approved.
Supporters will try again to get a committee vote on the measure Thursday morning.