Marriage equality legislation in Illinois was approved Tuesday by a state Senate committee, advancing the measure toward a vote of the full Senate that is expected to take place on Valentine's Day.
The Illinois Senate Executive Committee voted, just as they had a month earlier, in favor of the bill, which would legalize same-sex marriage in the land of Lincoln. Nine committee members voted in favor of the bill and five against.
State Sen. Heather Steans, the bill's sponsor, told the committee Tuesday, "Same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons we all do. Civil unions have created a second-class status," according to Chicago Pride.
Marriage equality proponents had hoped to pass the bill during the lame-duck session in early January, but say they ran out of time to do so, though it was advanced by the Senate Executive Committee for the first time.
Since that vote, Steans, a Chicago Democrat, reportedly tweaked the legislation to clearly state that houses of worship will not be required to offer same-sex marriage ceremonies, according to NBC Chicago.
Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project and senior policy advisor for LGBT advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda, said in a statement that he was "very excited to see this bill move forward." He, like the powerful Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, is confident that the bill will be approved by the full state Senate.
"We are looking forward to a full vote in the Senate and we expect it to pass," Garcia said. "It should be a very welcome Valentine's Day gift for the thousands of couples and families that are anxiously awaiting the passage of this bill. The momentum continues to build in Illinois."
If approved by the state Senate, the bill would next need to be OKed by the state House of Representatives, which is considered to be more conservative. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has already vowed to sign the bill and President Barack Obama has also expressed his support.