Illinois has become the 16th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.
A bill signing ceremony began at 3:30 p.m. CT at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum.
There, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed the state's marriage equality legislation into law -- at a desk once used by President Abraham Lincoln, no less.
"I think this is great progress for our state and for our society, and I think it will be looked upon that way in history," Quinn told ABC Chicago about the historic day. "It means a lot to our state of Illinois that were a welcoming society. I think the people of our state can understand that this law is going to make a difference for hundreds and hundreds of people."
Lincoln's desk was being transported to Chicago for the ceremony from the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office in Springfield. The AP reports the desk is where Lincoln wrote his 1861 inaugural address.
A crowd of thousands, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a bevy of other Illinois elected officials -- Attorney General Lisa Madigan, House Speaker Michael Madigan and lone Republican speaker Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar-Topinka among them, also attended the ceremony and spoke before the signing.
The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Greg Harris, also spoke before the bill's signing and cited a Lincoln quote: "Sometimes we walk slowly, but we never walk back."
"This was a labor of love and a mammoth undertaking," he said Wednesday, before thanking his colleagues, advocates, lobbyists and other supporters of the bill for their efforts.
Not everyone is celebrating the bill's Wednesday signing, however. Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki attracted international headlines when he announced last week he plans to preside over prayers of "supplication and exorcism" in opposition of the state's pending legalization of same-sex marriage.
In response to Paprocki's plans, online activist organization Faithful America launched a petition on Tuesday urging the bishop, who they say is "embarrassing the church with a pointless political stunt," to not hold his planned exorcism service. As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition has been signed over 14,700 times.
Illinois' marriage equality bill was narrowly approved by the state legislature during the veto session on Nov. 5. The bill was originally approved by the state Senate in a historic Valentine's Day vote in February but it stalled in the more conservative House and failed to come to a vote by the end of the spring legislative session in May.
With Quinn's signature, same-sex marriages can begin in Illinois on June 1, 2014.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more