*Proud to live in Illinois today.* icon_smile.gif

The state of Illinois moved one step closer to legalizing same sex marriage on Tuesday.

The Senate Executive Committee approved the Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act by a 9-5 vote, with Republicans opposing the measure. The full state Senate is expected to vote on the bill by next week.

“Marriage equality is a matter of fairness and equal rights under law,” Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. “We took the first step towards marriage equality two years ago when I signed civil unions into law. Since that day, thousands of committed couples in 92 counties across our state have entered into civil unions. Now is the time for the next step in providing equal rights to all people in Illinois.”

The bill would grant same sex couples all the marriage benefits and protections now exclusively available to married heterosexual couples. Churches and other religious institutions would have the right to consecrate or not consecrate same sex marriages.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriage.

The legislature of Rhode Island is also considering a bill to allow same sex couples to marry.

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