SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The push to allow same-sex marriages in Illinois got its biggest victory to date Thursday with a historic Valentine's Day vote in the state Senate, and supporters expressed confidence that within two weeks President Barack Obama's home state could join nine others that have lifted their gay-marriage bans amid shifting public opinion.
With a 34-21 vote, senators advanced the measure to the House, where it could be a tougher sell even though Democrats also hold a majority there. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has pledged to sign it into law should the House pass it too.
Senate approval was a significant — and at times elusive — step forward for the issue, just two years after legislators approved civil unions. Never had a plan to lift the gay-marriage ban won approval on the floor of either chamber.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, called it "a vote for the history books." She said the measure's strong showing in the Senate — where it needed 30 votes to pass — and the support of one Republican were good signs of what's to come.
Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said "the prospects are very good" in the House, though he declined to discuss the roll call so far or say when a hearing will be held. But other supporters said it could be within the next two weeks.
"As soon as we can send this bill to the governor and it becomes the law of the land I will be very happy person and so will tens of thousands of families across Illinois," Harris said.
Polls show voters' feelings shifting rapidly in favor of gay rights. President Barack Obama said last year he supports same-sex marriage, and in November voters in four states either approved or voted down bans on gay marriage.