By Ray Long
3:00 PM CST, February 5, 2013
SPRINGFIELD --- Supporters of allowing gay marriage in Illinois cleared the first of many hurdles today.
An Illinois Senate committee advanced a same-sex marriage bill 9-5.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, next moves to the full Senate, where backers indicated it could come up for a vote on Valentine's Day.
Steans sponsored gay marriage legislation in last month's lame duck session, but could not advance it past the initial committee stage. She said the bill is necessary to provide "equal protection" under laws for same-sex couples when civil union alone fall short.
Bloomington's Danielle Cook, with her partner Suzie Hutton, testified the legislation is needed to "make our lives more complete." Cook said she has a civil union but that it is not fully recognized in social ways with the good wishes and congratulations that come with marriage or in employment settings.
Her face getting red, Cook said, "It hurt." She told senators she sees the couple's relationship as a marriage but is viewed differently because "marriage is the standard" of society.
The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle of Good Shepherd Church in Romeoville said she is straight, married, a mother of three and a pastor who views the legislation as a "matter of legal, civil and human rights."
She said she has viewed ceremonies for civil unions as marriages, saying, "I believe these people are married in the eyes of God."
But the Rev. Keith Williams of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church of Country Club Hills disagreed. He said he was in "vehement opposition" to the legislation because same-sex marriage went against the basic tenets of the Bible.
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