(MCT) — Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday said he hopes state lawmakers send him a gay marriage bill when they meet again in January, but even the measure's sponsor is unsure the issue will rise to the top of a busy agenda.
"I hope that bill goes forward," Quinn said when asked about the possibility of a same-sex marriage measure being passed before new lawmakers are sworn in Jan. 9. "It's the House that probably is the key arena at this time, and I think we'll see how the members look at that issue. They should study it carefully and vote their conscience."
Quinn's comments came during a round-table discussion with reporters at the Chicago office of Bloomberg News, where the governor reiterated the need for lawmakers to act on pension reform during the waning days of the legislative session. The timing is important, as legislators who aren't returning to office have more freedom to vote for controversial issues.
The Democratic governor equated the need to cut state worker pension costs to the budget situation playing out in Washington.
"This is our fiscal cliff, and we need to deal with it, we can't just walk away from it," Quinn said. "If we don't deal with our version of the fiscal cliff, we'll have less money for the things that people want their government to do."
The pressing nature of the pension issue led Rep. Greg Harris, the chief sponsor of the gay marriage bill, to say he was encouraged by Quinn's comments while acknowledging his proposal might take a back seat during the lame-duck session.
"At this point, we will call (the gay marriage bill) when we have the votes there," said Harris, D-Chicago. "We can see the trend of public opinion having shifted dramatically ... but it takes time for legislators to figure that out. And there are a number of other key votes, pensions is obviously No. 1 among them."
Two years ago, Harris helped shepherd through a measure allowing civil unions for same-sex couples during the postelection session. He argues it's no longer a matter of whether same-sex marriage will be legalized in Illinois, but when.
"People all around the political spectrum have thought about this issue and said there is really no good reason that we shouldn't treat one family in Illinois differently or with less respect than we treat another," Harris said.
Opponents in the Legislature have cited religious concerns, saying the sanctity of marriage should be protected and the institution be defined as between a man and a woman.