Illinois Becomes the 16th State to Legalize Gay Marriage

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Illinois Governor Pat Quinn sat at Lincoln's desk as he signed the state's gay marriage bill into law on Wednesday afternoon, making the state the 16th in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. And while witnessing the legalization of gay marriage in a new state is more and more common these days, Illinois still went all out for its hour-long bill signing ceremony, with speeches, choirs, and a backdrop of repeating national, state, and rainbow flags. The livestreamed occasion even had a rendition of the national anthem on the ukelele. 

Quinn's remarks on the marriage equality bill paraphrased Lincoln: "we understand in our state that part of our unfinished business is to help other states achieve marriage equality," Quinn said before signing the bill into law, adding, "we want to have a new birth of freedom across America." 


Speaking to Buzzfeed before the signing, Quinn described his choice of Lincoln's desk: 

Lincoln was a man that understood that you didn’t have to make a long speech — the Gettysburg Address is only 272 words — to sum up the essence of democracy, and that’s what Illinois, his home state, has used here to pass a very important civil rights measure that will live on in history. 

The bill passed both houses of the state's General Assembly weeks ago, about a year after Quinn publicly announced his support for marriage equality. The bill, which also includes some religious exemptions, passed the state's Senate on February 14th of this year. It languished in the House for months, until finally coming up for a vote on November 5 during a special "veto session" of the legislature in November. An amended version of the bill squeezed through the House with 61 votes, just one more vote than the minimum required to proceed. The Senate swiftly gave it final passage 32-21 later that day. It will take effect on June 1, 2014. 

Illinois was one of two states to legalize gay marriage in November. Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize marriage equality, passing and signing an equal marriage bill into law about a week after Illinois sent its bill to Quinn.

Here, you can witness the spread of legal same-sex marriage across the nation over time: 


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.