After more than 20 years in a committed relationship with each other, Gale Harris and Deb Glaubke want to get married, but they can’t.
Harris, 73, and Glaubke, 69, of Woodstock, are gay.
“When you look around and see that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce – and we’ve been together for longer – then it shows that we are a stable family unit,” Glaubke said.
An Illinois Senate committee voted, 8-5, late Thursday in favor of a bill that would allow gay marriage. But with key supporters absent, Senate Democrats delayed a full floor vote.
Senate lawmakers are unlikely to return to Springfield before the session ends Wednesday, when new lawmakers will be sworn in and a new legislative session starts.
Sen. Heather Steans, the bill’s sponsor, said it was a matter of “when, not if” the measure will pass. She said people across Illinois and state lawmakers are changing their minds every day and supporting gay marriage.
If approved, Illinois would be the 10th state to allow gay marriage.
But several local lawmakers still are opposed.
Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, said he would try to fight the bill every step of the way, saying it infringes upon religious liberties.
“Marriage is a church sacrament,” he said. “This bill tries to redefine church doctrine.”
After word spread that the issue might go to a vote, leaders from more than 1,700 faith communities signed a letter encouraging lawmakers to vote against gay marriage. Several local churches were among those that signed the letter, including Evangelical Free Church of Crystal Lake, First Baptist of Marengo, and Outreach Fellowship Christian Center in East Dundee.
Marriage is the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman, and the natural basis of the family, the religious leaders said.
The idea that religious freedom is confined to churches, synagogues, temples or mosques is “wrong and dangerous,” according to the letter.
“Thus, the real peril: if marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations – regardless of deeply held beliefs – will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations,” the letter reads. “Compulsion of this nature is a violation of personal conscience and of religious liberty.”
In the House, state Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, said that civil unions, which are legal in Illinois, already have accomplished what gay marriage would.
“I certainly respect when two people find happiness together and want to share their lives together,” he said. “I’m certainly going to listen to the debate and listen to what’s contained in the piece of legislation, but right now, I still believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
State Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat from Marengo, said he wasn’t prepared to give his opinion on the topic because there are more pressing issues: pensions, which go hand-in-hand with school funding, and the budget.
“I think we should be concentrating on those things before we concentrate on social issues,” Franks said.
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Harris, a social worker, and Glaubke, who works for domestic violence agency Turning Point, came to McHenry County about 12 or 13 years ago from Evanston. With the county’s conservative reputation, they admit they had reservations about the move,
But they’ve found support.
“When Deb and I bought a house out here, we were worried about how we would be seen in the community,” Harris said. “We have not had any problems whatsoever.”
To some extent, it does affect Glaubke when her legislators come out against gay marriage.
“It does affect how I think about them in the polling place,” she said. “I couldn’t deny that it doesn’t have an impact for me, but I tend to look at the politician in the bigger picture.”
In 1989, Harris and Glaubke had a do-it-yourself kind of commitment ceremony. Once civil unions became legal in Illinois, they did that, too, although they had some discussion about whether they should because it was second best.
A marriage would represent a validation, Harris said.
“I really do believe that marriage is a civil right and has nothing to do with religion or anything else,” she said. “Gay families are fundamentally not any different than any other kinds of families, although we’ve had to jump through some extra hoops.”
Harris said she doesn’t take it personally when someone opposes gay marriage.
“I’m sure there are a lot of things that I get wrong,” she said. “It doesn’t make me angry or anything.”
She figures they just need “a little more education.”
“If they’re coming from a Bible-based bias, if you want to call it that, they’re going to be looking at that rather than the human being in front of them,” Harris said.
She’s the daughter of a southern Baptist minister, but her father never stood in the way of her relationship, she said.
The pendulum, Harris said, is swinging toward allowing gay marriage.
Glaubke just never really imagined it would be in her lifetime.
“I thought maybe the next generation,” she said.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.