A bid to introduce the Illinois marriage equality bill was defeated on Wednesday night when supporters of the bill fell two votes shy of getting the legislative hearing of the bill.
This meaning there will be no Senate vote on the measure until Thursday (4 January) at the earliest.
The vote was on waiving a six-day waiting period set out in Senate rules to get the measure heard in committee Wednesday night (2 January).
However key absences among Democratic supporters and unified Republican opposition defeated the effort, by 28 votes to 24.
The defeat caught equality campaigners off-guard, supporters were hoping the bill might be passed this week, which theoretically still could happen.
Republican Senator, Dale Righter, an opponent of marriage equality told the Chicago Sun-Times: ‘The least we could do is show [voters] the respect and say, “Here it is, take a look at it for a few days according to our rules”’.
Chicago’s Catholic Cardinal also stated publicly his opposition to gay marriage describing it as a fiction and saying gays should remain celibate and not aim to ‘destroy’ ‘natural law’ by attempting to legislate such ‘artificial’ ‘constructs’.
Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate’s President John Cullerton (Democrat) said: ‘It’s a little bit too soon to conclude it was a fatal blow’.
Phelon also stated that the measure would be voted on by the Senate Executive Committee early Thursday.
Senator Heather Steans (Democrat), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, said that a parliamentary way around the six-day waiting period is to have the legislation be heard in the Senate Executive Committee tomorrow.
Rick Garcia, director of the Equal Marriage Illinois project stated: ‘This is just a technicality and is not something that we are worried about.
‘We look forward to the bill being heard in committee tomorrow’.
According to Reuters, even if Illinois lawmakers fail to approve gay marriage in the short run, the a new legislature, following the November elections, will have an increased Democrat majority and thus the measure would be passed more easily.
Illinois has already legalized civil unions in June 2011, which grant some of the rights of marriage to same-sex partners.
All prominent Democrats in Illinois have endorsed gay marriage, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn.
The bill allows religious groups to perform same-sex marriage if they choose to, or opt out if they object.
Last week, at least 260 Illinois Jewish and Protestant leaders published a letter supporting same-sex marriage.
The letter stated: ‘There can be no justification for the law treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity’.
A survey of Illinois voters by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling late last year found 47 percent would allow gay marriage, 42 percent opposed and 11 percent not sure.