Illinois House vote paves the way for marriage equality
'Happy Gay Couple Getting Married On The Playground Of A Park' [Shutterstock]

Cheers rang out in the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday as a bill legalizing marriage equality was approved by the bare minimum, guaranteeing that it will become the 15th state to do so.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the state Senate quickly concurred with the House's 61-54 vote. The bill will now be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who has already announced his intention to sign off on it.

"Today the Illinois House put our state on the right side of history," the AP quoted Quinn as saying in a statement. "Illinois is a place that embraces all people and today, we are an example for the nation."

The vote capped off nearly three hours of debate, with three Republicans, including former House Minority Leader Tom Cross, crossing party lines and supporting the bill.

"For me, supporting marriage equality is not only the right decision, but also consistent with my belief in individual freedom, equality and limited government," Cross said in a statement. The Associated Press reported that Cross stepped down from the position and is running for state treasurer.

State Rep. Greg Harris (D), who is gay, sponsored a similar bill earlier this year but did not bring it to the floor, citing lack of support. But Harris said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act "resonated" with his colleagues. He also argued that a state law allowing for civil unions put an unfair burden on LGBT residents.

"To treat all our citizens equally in the eyes of the law, we must change this," the Chicago Tribune quoted Harris as saying.

But one of Harris' fellow Democrats, state Rep. Mary Flowers, called the whole debate "a joke," arguing that lawmakers cannot overturn the Bible's tenet holding marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Watch video of the reaction to the House vote, as published by the Tribune on Tuesday, below.

[Image: "Happy Gay Couple Getting Married On The Playground Of A Park" via Shutterstock]