State Sen. Jason Barickman said he wants religious exemptions included in any gay marriage bill. (Photo courtesy Illinois House Republicans)
By The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD - Democrats say they have enough votes to approve gay marriage on the floor of the Illinois Senate.
But Thursday's vote poses a challenge for Republicans.
After suffering big losses at the polls last fall, GOP leaders in Illinois and nationwide said the party needs to be more inclusive and diverse.
But after Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady publicly backed gay marriage during January's lame-duck legislative session, members of the more conservative wing of his party called for his ouster. Opponents also pledged to fund primary challenges to any Republican who voted in favor of the bill.
The conflict comes as voters' feelings are shifting rapidly in favor of gay rights.
If the Senate approves the measure, it will move to the House.
Barickman wants religious exemption
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said he’s been working to keep the debate from becoming one-sided.
Barickman said he’s talked to the bill’s sponsors about religious freedom and fairness. Barickman said he’s concerned that the legislation might leave religious organizations vulnerable to legal action if they don’t endorse same sex marriage.
"My hope is that if it passes, we can do it in a way so that those religious protections continue to exist," Barickman said.
Supporters approved the amendment Thursday that explicitly states no church or other religious organization will be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages. It also says churches cannot be sued if they don't allow their parishes to be used for same-sex marriage ceremonies.