Illinois set to become 15th state to allow same-sex marriage

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Historic votes Tuesday in the Illinois Legislature positioned the state to legalize gay marriage, following months of lobbying efforts by both sides in President Barack Obama's home state.

Under the measure — which the state House approved 61-54 before sending it back to the Senate for technical changes and final approval — gay weddings could be held in Illinois starting June 1. The bill heads next to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pledged to sign it.

Fourteen states plus Washington D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Most recently, New Jersey, Minnesota and Rhode Island have legalized it.

The road to the Illinois vote was long with stalled attempts this year, something that frustrated activists in the state where Democrats control the House, Senate and governor's office. Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, who is the sponsor of the bill, decided not to bring the bill for a vote in May because he said he didn't have the support. It had passed the Senate in February.

Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, something he said resonated with lawmakers. Backers also launched a furious campaign.

"To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law we must change this," Harris said on the floor. "Families have been kept apart."

House debate lasted more than two hours, and the final roll call was met with cheers and applause. Supporters' speeches echoed themes of equality and civil rights with mentions of Obama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Matthew Shepard, a gay college student whose 1998 death sparked numerous hate crime bills.

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