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Illinois Gay Marriage March, Rally Draws Advocates To State Capitol As Veto Session Begins

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CHICAGO -- Marriage equality advocates pushing for the Illinois state legislature to pass a same-sex marriage bill during their fall veto session gathered Tuesday morning outside the capitol in Springfield.

Advocates for the bill traveled from throughout the state for a rally featuring speeches in support of marriage equality from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Republican State Comptroller Judy Baar-Topinka and Gov. Pat Quinn, who has repeatedly pushed for the bill's passage and pledged to sign it into law as soon as it arrives on his desk. The rally was expected to attract thousands.

"The time for marriage equality has come," the governor said Tuesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. "This is our hour, this is our moment."

For their part, opponents to the bill are planning their own rally at the capitol Wednesday.

The Illinois same-sex marriage legislation -- SB 10 -- was approved in a historic vote by the state Senate in a Valentine's Day vote this year but collapsed in the House in late May when its sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, announced that he would not be calling the measure for a vote because his colleagues had asked for more time to consider their vote on the matter.

Though nearly five months have passed since that day and multiple polls have shown a majority of Illinois voters support the marriage bill, the legislation's fate in the veto session remains uncertain.

Making matters more complicated than they were in the spring session, should marriage equality advocates push for the marriage bill as it is written -- to go into effect within 30 days of the governor's signature -- they will need 71 yes votes in the House. Otherwise, they may push the bill's effective date to June 1, 2014, needing just 60 yes votes in the House but also requiring the Senate's re-approval.

Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for Illinois Unites for Marriage, the multi-organization coalition lobbying for the bill's passage, told The Huffington Post he is very confident advocates are "on a path" to the number of yes votes they need, but declined to offer a specific vote tally.

"Everybody has a different number and I've heard lots of different speculation about different vote counts," Yohnka said Monday. "But I think we're on a path where this is going to happen."

Obstacles to the marriage bill advancing during the six-day veto session, which runs Tuesday through Thursday this week and then Nov. 5-7 next month, vary depending on who one asks.

While some pundits say pension reform legislation could take priority over a vote on the marriage bill, others have pointed to the fact that lawmakers' potential primary challengers will have three weeks after the veto session's end by which to submit nominating petitions for the March 2014 election. Such challengers could make a vote in favor of the bill a campaign issue, particularly in more conservative districts.

Still, veteran gay activist Rick Garcia, who was instrumental in the state's 2010 passage of a civil union bill and is the policy director of LGBT advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda, maintained advocates are "only a handful of votes way from marriage" and described pension reform and possible primary challenges as "excuses" to further delay legislation he believes should have been called to a vote months ago.

"But this is politics and we have a job to do. We have votes we need to secure and we are here today trying to secure those votes," Garcia told HuffPost by phone from Springfield. "This needs to be done and it needs to be done now."

And if the veto session comes and goes without a vote on the marriage bill? "There's going to be hell to pay," Garcia added.

If Illinois legalizes same-sex marriage during the veto session, it will become the 15th U.S. state to do so.

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