The Illinois State Senate [official website] on Thursday approved a bill [SB 10, PDF] to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. The senate voted 34-21 to lift the ban [AP report] on same-sex marriage in the state of Illinois. The bill, referred to as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, was passed largely on party lines with only one Republican voting in favor of the legislation. Before voting on this legislation, the state senate adopted an amendment to the bill stating that religious organizations will not be forced to recognize same-sex marriages. The amendment also explicitly states that churches cannot be sued for prohibiting their parishes from performing same-sex marriages. The bill states: "All laws of this State applicable to marriage, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law, shall apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children." If the Senate's bill is passed by the House and signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois would be the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine states, as well as the District of Columbia. Last month, the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved [JURIST report] a bill [H 5015, PDF] that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The bill passed by a vote of 51-19 after a lengthy debate on the House floor. Rhode Island is currently the only state in New England that has not legalized same-sex marriage, and previous attempts to legalize same-sex marriage in the predominantly Catholic state have been unsuccessful. Earlier in January the US Supreme Court received briefs [JURIST report] in two separate cases defending the constitutionality of laws that define marriage as strictly between one man and one woman.