CHICAGO — The Illinois General Assembly took no action on a long-anticipated bill that would have allowed gays and lesbians to marry.
As the legislature's session came to an end Friday night, lawmakers deferred action on several high-profile issues, including pension reform, a Chicago casino and same-sex marriage, which over the last months, supporters had pledged to pass.
The Senate passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage in February, and the issue had won the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and President Barack Obama.
"We have to make sure that wherever we go, we are reminding people that the essence of America is that everybody is treated equally under the law without exception," Obama said while in Chicago this week.
Opponents of the bill said same-sex marriage would harm families and children.
On Friday, the House bill's sponsor Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) was brought to tears when he tabled the issue, saying some lawmakers wanted more time to make a decision.
"I've never been sadder to accept such a request," Harris said. "I have to keep my eye, as we all must, on the ultimate prize."
Harris vowed to bring the issue back to the General Assembly when it reconvenes for a veto session in November.
"Until that day, I apologize to the families who hoped to wake up tomorrow to be full and equal citizens of this state," he said.
In Chicago's Boystown, backers of the bill said the news was crushing. Chuck Hyde, the general manager of Sidetrack, 3349 N Halsted St., said he was stunned when Harris officially delivered the news.
"That just kind of wrecked me, and it wrecked all of us," Hyde said.
Hyde said a group had been watching the live feed from the capitol all day long, waiting for lawmakers to call the bill for a vote. He said he really believed the bill would pass Friday.
"We had everything ready," Hyde said. "We were getting ready to launch the party of the century here."
Hyde said it "depressing" to know he and his partner of 20 years would have to continue to wait to marry but said they will stick it out until the couple can officially marry in Illinois.
He said he understands why lawmakers did not call the bill for a vote but said he still wanted to know who exactly the "no" votes would have been.
"By not calling it, we also don't know who the people are who are against it, and that doesn't help us any unfortunately," Hyde said.
Back in Springfield, Rep. Deb Mell (D-Chicago) spoke of the relationship with her wife, Christin. They were married last year in Iowa.
"There's been some hurtful and mean things said about our marriage," she said. "They say we are abnormal and immoral. And that's some of the nicer things they've said about us."
As she spoke, she fought back tears.
"We are more alike than different. At the end of the day, Christin and I want what you want."
Mell urged her colleagues to vote "yes" in the fall.
"Hit that green button. Hit it for love. Hit it for equality."