The Illinois House on Tuesday voted 61-54 to approve same-sex marriage, setting up the state to become the 15th to allow gay marriages.

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“What same-sex couples in Illinois want for their families is just what you want,” said Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, sponsor of the bill and one of several openly gay members of the state Legislature. He invoked the American civil rights and women’s rights movements. “We find ourselves at another one of those moments today,” he said.

Prior to the vote, Harris attached an amendment strengthening the right of churches and private entities to decline to host gay marriage ceremonies, to address a chief criticism of opponents: That churches and other organizations that oppose same-sex marriage might end up being legally forced to host or participate in the ceremonies.

Harris stressed repeatedly in floor debate that the measure contains “ironclad” safeguards to protect the right of opponents to avoid any involvement in same-sex ceremonies.

“Today there are couples who cannot get married in a church because of a prior marriage. . . . That’s up to the church,” said Harris. He insisted the situation with same-sex marriages would be no different.

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