Updated: February 6, 2013 1:54AM
SPRINGFIELD-Legislation that would make Illinois the 10th state to legalize gay marriage cleared a Senate panel Tuesday with new language designed to offer churches greater safeguards from having to perform wedding ceremonies if they object.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), passed the Senate Executive Committee by a 9-5 vote and now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote that is expected to occur on Valentines Day.
The same panel approved similar legislation during a lame-duck legislative session in early January. But the plan stalled when backers acknowledged absences of three key votes kept them below the minimum 30-vote threshold they need to meet in the Senate to pass the legislation.