CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois became the 16th state to allow same-sex couples to marry, as Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation at a public ceremony at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Wednesday afternoon.
Thousands of same-sex couples and other supporters packed into the UIC Forum to witness the historic signing.
“This is a basic issue of human rights,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Quinn signed the law at a desk once used by President Abraham Lincoln. The desk was where Lincoln penned his 1861 inaugural address.
“It’s a triumph of democracy,” Quinn said.
“There is no straight or gay marriage in Illinois,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “There is only marriage.”
Two weeks ago, Illinois lawmakers signed off on legislation that legalizes same-sex marriage in Illinois. As it stands, couples would have to wait until June 1, when the law is scheduled to go into effect, but lawmakers might revise the legislation in January to allow same-sex marriages sooner.
The Illinois Senate approved the measure on Valentine’s Day, but it took several months for the Illinois House to gather enough support to send the measure to the governor.
State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the House sponsor who worked tirelessly to convince colleagues to pass the legislation, wanted to get it done in the spring, but couldn’t muster enough votes until the veto session earlier this month.
“People went back, and thought about it, and decided they wanted to be on the right side of history,” he said.
Jan and Rosemary Brooks say they just had to be in the room at the UIC forum at the moment Governor Pat Quinn put pen to paper – transforming the marriage equality bill into law in Illinois.
“It’s history. And I want to be part of history. We want to be part of history,” said Jan Brooks.
Cardinal Francis George has sent a letter to Catholic clergy and parishioners in the Chicago area, calling the same-sex marriage legislation a bad law, claiming it will contribute to further dissolution of marriage and family life.
Obviously, Quinn – who is Catholic – and many other people in the state vehemently disagree.
The Thomas More Society vowed a legal challenge.
“The bill is called the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. But this act is neither free nor fair for people of religious convictions,” Peter Breen, Vice President and Senior Counsel of the Thomas More Society,s said in a statement.
“Because the general assembly left out specific protections for individuals, businesses, religious organizations, and religious charities, we will have to discover the boundaries of this act through litigation.”