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February 22, 2013

Marriage bills advance in two states, two nations

Two countries and two American states stand poised to pass full same-sex marriage, while another state looks ready to send a civil union bill to a receptive governor.

The House of Commons passed a full full marriage bill for England and Wales by a vote of 400-175 on February 5. The measure went to committee to fix any problems with wording, and it then goes on to the House of Lords, which tends to be the more conservative of the two chambers of the British Parliament.

After the bill is passed by the Lords, it returns to the Commons for a third, final reading. Most of the work left to be done revolves around ironing out the final details, like the interaction of the marriage law with existing divorce statutes and the implementation of the new law.

Over the English Channel in France, a week later, the French National Assembly approved a bill allowing full same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples.

The bill passed 329-229, just ten days after an amendment to it was approved defining marriage as being between two people, instead of between a man and a woman. The bill is supported by the ruling Socialist Party, which holds an outright majority, as well as other left-leaning parties in the government.

Domestically, both Illinois and Rhode Island have seen movement on marriage laws, while Colorado’s civil union bill progressed.

On Valentine’s Day, a bill allowing full same-sex marriage passed the Illinois Senate 34-21, with two abstentions and two senators voting “present.”

Only one Republican senator crossed party lines to vote for the bill, Sen. Jason Barickman. He said that, contrary to some of his colleagues, he believed that an amendment added to the bill was sufficient to protect religious organizations from being forced to solemnize same-sex nuptials.

The two senators voting present, as well as the two abstaining, were all Democrats. Three other Democrats voted against the bill.

The bill now goes to committee in the Illinois House of Representatives. A number of Democrats in the House have spoken out against civil unions and same-sex marriage, so the effort to pass the bill is expected to be harder in that chamber.

Rhode Island’s House of Representatives passed a marriage bill in late January, and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who personally opposes the bill, said she would allow “fair debate” on the issue, although she also said she does not know how her fellow state senators would vote on it.

She noted that some of her colleagues feel the religious exemptions don’t offer enough protections to religious organizations. She also stated that the senate’s first priority was the economy.

In Colorado, the state senate passed a civil union bill on February 11, three days after the chamber gave it preliminary approval.

As in Illinois, a lone Republican crossed party lines to support the measure, Sen. Ellen Roberts, leaving the final vote at 21-14.

The measure has passed the Senate twice in the last two years, but it was defeated in the House of Representatives. Democrats now control both chambers and the governor’s mansion, so the bill is expected to pass.

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