Posted Online: Jan. 03, 2013, 9:28 am

Illinois Senate might consider gay marriage bill

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) Marriage-equality supporters are expected to try again to move landmark same-sex marriage legislation through the Senate, after a proposal hit a procedural snag on the first day of the Legislature's lame duck session.

Sen. Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, has said she has enough Senate votes for approval of the measure, which would remove from state law a prohibition on marriage between two people of the same sex. But she also said the timing of a vote is key to ensure enough supporters were in attendance.

If a measure becomes law, Illinois would become the 10th state to approve same-sex marriage, a proposal made just 18 months after the state recognized civil unions and one riding momentum from several events including public encouragement from President Barack Obama.

Supporters were aiming at a new attempt Thursday. Steans' attempt to amend gay-marriage language onto an existing bill required a Senate vote to set aside a requirement for giving advance notice. But waiver fell two votes short after Republicans requested a roll call.

The procedural vote signified how contentious the issue is, but proponents said it was a blip and not a block.

Pressure was applied from both sides Wednesday, with a gay TV star campaigning in favor of marriage equality and more than 1,000 religious leaders, from Catholics to Muslims, signing a letter opposing it.

During an appearance Wednesday in Chicago, Jesse Tyler Ferguson of the Emmy-winning series 'Modern Family' announced his support alongside his fiance, Justin Mikita, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon. Ferguson is a gay actor who, on the ABC comedy, portrays a gay man raising a child with another man.

'I'm looking forward to raising a family with Justin and having our kids grow up in an equal America,' Ferguson said

Proponents say the legislation would not impinge on religious beliefs. Religious organizations would not have to recognize or consecrate gay marriage.

But some 1,700 state religious leaders derided that claim in a letter sent to every Illinois lawmaker.

'The real peril: If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations regardless of deeply held beliefs will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations,' said the letter, penned by leaders of Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon, Anglican, and Islamic faiths.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports both plans and has said he wants a same-sex marriage bill sent to him from the legislative session scheduled through Jan. 9, the final days of the 97th General Assembly. It includes dozens of lame-duck lawmakers who won't be sworn into the next assembly and thus have more freedom to back contentious issues.

Among those that also might be considered are bills limiting semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, a measure to let illegal immigrants have driver's licenses and an as-yet-elusive fix to Illinois' $96 billion pension crisis.

The assault weapon restrictions being pushed by Democrats passed a Senate committee Wednesday night on a party-line vote. But the measures will have a tougher time in the full Senate, where downstate Democrats and Republicans are more pro-gun.

One bill would prohibit the sale, transfer and possession of semi-automatic handguns and rifles. People who currently are legal owners of such weapons would be allowed to keep them but would have to register them.

The other measure would limit magazines and other 'ammunition-feeding devices' to 10 or fewer rounds.

Supporters say the bills are necessary in the wake of mass shootings such as the massacre at a Connecticut school last month. But a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association told lawmakers Wednesday the measures go too far.