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Same-sex marriage bill advances in Illinois Senate

Illinois is one step closer to legalizing marriage equality.

Illinois is one step closer to legalizing marriage equality.

The state's Senate Executive Committee advanced a bill Thursday, 8-5, that would officially recognize same-sex marriages in the state. The bill, also known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, will now be sent to the Illinois Senate for a vote. It is unclear when the the Senate will take up the bill.

State Democratic Sen. Heather Steans, one of the sponsors of the act, acknowledged Thursday she did not have the 30 votes needed to pass the legislation in the Senate because of missing members. There are 35 Democrats in the Illinois Senate.

Senate spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon told the AP Thursday she did not know how many votes there were lined up to back the bill, but noted that no Senate Republicans supported it. However, Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady supports the measure and he called on his colleagues Wednesday to embrace efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Brady told the Illinois Review that he believes legalizing same-sex marriage is an "equality issue," and that the "true conservative position is in favor" of allowing it.

Last week President Obama, the first sitting president to openly support same-sex marriage, also tipped his hat in and urged lawmakers of his home state to pass the bill.

Steans and her colleague, state Rep. Greg Harris, hoped to put the bill up for a vote during the lame-duck session, giving them until Jan. 9 before the new legislature is sworn in. If passed by both the state Senate and House, Illinois would become the 10th state in the country to legalize marriage equality.

Update, 1/4, 12:09pm: Steans appeared on msnbc on Friday morning to discuss the bill, noting:

“We have a number of denominations in many different faith traditions already supporting us. The real goal is here is that we’re not really redefining religious marriage … this is civil marriage and it will be up to every religious faith, tradition to practice their own beliefs.”

See the entire interview above.