Illinois becomes 16th state to allow same-sex marriage

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(CNN) — Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act on Wednesday, making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Quinn, a Democrat, called the act a “triumph of democracy, a triumph of a government of the people, that we believe in liberty and equality – and we’re making sure that’s part of our law.”

The Illinois governor said it was “meaningful” that Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – a speech, “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Fittingly, Quinn signed the bill at a desk once used by the 16th president.

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act passed both houses of the state’s General Assembly earlier this month. The measure will go into effect June 14, 2014.

When the bill passed the Illinois legislature, President Barack Obama praised his home state for approving the bill, saying at the time that he “always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally under the law.”

“Over time, I also came to believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married like anyone else,” the President said earlier this month.

Illinois previously allowed for same-sex unions and now joins 15 other states in legalizing same-sex marriage. Same sex-marriage was already approved in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – as well as the District of Columbia. Colorado and Hawaii allow civil unions.

Hawaii was the most recent state to approve same-sex marriage. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, also a Democrat, signed the state’s legislation on November 15 and the law will go into effect December 2.

“I think that we understand, in our state, that part of our unfinished business is to help other states in the United States of America achieve marriage equality,” Quinn said on Wednesday.

“We want to have a new birth of freedom across America so that all 50 states in our nation have marriage equality, and love is not relegated to a second-class status for any citizen in our country.”