SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are convening in Springfield for the final three days of their annual fall session.
The action kicks off with Tuesday hearings on corporate tax incentives and stricter gun penalties in the Illinois House.
Same-sex marriage legislation could also come up for a vote in the coming days. The measure was approved by the state Senate in February but stalled in the House in the spring. Advocates have since launched a more collaborative push and several undecided lawmakers announced their support for the measure. Opponents say they're prepared to mount primary challenges against members who vote for the legislation.
Lawmakers are not confident there will be a vote on a deal to solve the state's $97 billion pension crisis, but they say they are making progress on a deal.
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii's battle over gay marriage brought state lawmakers back to work Monday after the governor called a special session that could make the islands a wedding destination for more couples.
Some 1,800 people signed up to testify in person at a Senate committee hearing, which was carried live on TV and local news websites. Dozens of people gathered around three televisions in the Capitol rotunda, cheering testimony they agreed with and singing songs.
Opponents of gay marriage solicited honks and shaka signs from passing motorists on the street, staging a large rally of hundreds of people timed with afternoon rush hour.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie called the special session after House and Senate lawmakers couldn't muster the two-thirds support needed to do it themselves. He says passing a bill would put Hawaii in line with two Supreme Court rulings that affirmed gay marriage and granted federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Hawaii already allows civil unions, and some members of a Senate committee questioned Monday whether it was important to also allow gay marriage.
After Hawaii Attorney General David Louie said same-sex couples in civil unions in Hawaii who got married in other states would essentially get similar benefits to couples married under the new law, Republican Sen. Sam Slom questioned the point of debating further.
His comments drew responses of "Amen" from some in the crowd.
But Louie, who supports legalizing gay marriage, said traveling to the U.S. mainland is no small issue, given costs and effort needed to arrange a marriage in other states.
"That is not an unsubstantial burden," Louie said.
Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee asked Louie to prepare a report detailing any other tangible benefits Hawaii couples would gain or lose, including implications for taxes, insurance and other federal and state benefits.
Louie promised a response and said a law may have implications for Medicaid and Family and Medical Leave Act benefits.
"I have to tell you, I'm kind of confused now," said Sen. Malama Solomon, who said she didn't know until Monday's hearing that gay couples who legally marry in other states would get only minimal benefits by being allowed to marry in Hawaii.
Proponents say they shouldn't have to wait for gay marriage, calling it a civil right, and have argued gay marriage could be a boon for tourism in Hawaii as an appealing destination for ceremonies and honeymoons.
Opponents say society needs to encourage marriage between men and women, in part to protect children. They also say a religious exemption proposed in the bill doesn't do enough to protect people who don't believe in gay marriage from having to facilitate ceremonies. Other opponents want a public vote, rather than a special session in a Legislature dominated by Democrats.
Nearly 4,000 pages of written testimony were submitted ahead of the hearing, which was held under tight security in a crowded basement auditorium in the Capitol.
Testimony was expected to go into the night with a committee vote to send the bill to the full Senate.
On the House side, Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican representing Ewa and Ewa Beach, introduced a proposal to amend the Hawaii Constitution to explicitly restrict marriage to between men and women. The constitution currently gives the Legislature the power to decide whether marriage between two people of the same sex should be allowed.
It's not clear whether McDermott's proposal will be heard before a committee. It had been referred to the judiciary and finance committees, but no hearing was scheduled.
Rep. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the House judiciary committee, said a final decision had not yet been made.
The same House committees scheduled a Thursday joint hearing on the Senate bill to legalize gay marriage, presuming it crosses over from the other chamber.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Opponents of gay marriage have rallied outside the Illinois Capitol a day after thousands of supporters rallied for the legislation.
The "Defend Marriage Lobby Day" began Wednesday with a morning prayer service outside the Capitol. Attendees clustered around a large wooden cross that had been placed at the Lincoln statue. Some participants carried pictures of the Holy Family - Jesus, Mary and Joseph - and posters emphasizing their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
The event included pastors who hope to influence moderate Republicans and socially conservative members of the House Black Caucus.
Same-sex marriage legislation passed the Illinois Senate in February, but gay activists say they're a few votes short in the House.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Thousands of disappointed Illinois residents are expected at the state Capitol to rally for same-sex marriage.
Organizers say several thousand people are expected to take part in the "March on Springfield" -a grassroots effort to urge the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois.
The Illinois Senate approved the measure last February, but the measure has stalled in the House. Speaker Michael Madigan has said about a dozen votes are still needed.
The event will begin with a noon concert followed by a rally at 1 p.m. and a 2:30 p.m. March. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn are participating in the event. The governor says he will sign legislation if passed by the General Assembly.
Currently 13 states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.
CHICAGO (AP) - An Illinois judge promises to rule on the future of a lawsuit seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.
The lawsuit was filed last year by 25 gay couples who want the right to marry.
Cook County Judge Sophia Hall is expected to rule Friday on a motion to dismiss the case.
Lawyers for five downstate county clerks who are defending the ban want the case tossed. Plaintiffs' attorneys want the judge to let the lawsuit stand - then rule immediately that they won the lawsuit and that the ban is illegal.
The clerks won permission to defend the ban after Cook County's top prosecutor and the Illinois attorney general refused to do so, saying the 17 year old ban violates the state constitution.
Illinois legalized civil unions two years ago.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Attorney General Gary King says he will not challenge a move by the Dona Ana County clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
King told reporters Wednesday that he didn't believe state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage were constitutional.
He also said he would not challenge any other county clerk who issued licenses.
Still, King warned that those marriages could be invalid if the state Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is not allowed in New Mexico.
The Dona Ana County clerk began issuing same-sex marriage licenses Wednesday after he said his review of state law allowed him to do so.
Couples immediately began arriving at a Las Cruces courthouse to receive licenses amid pending court challenges elsewhere in the state.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Same-sex spouses of military members could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of August. That's according to a Pentagon proposal under consideration.
But the agency may reverse earlier plans to provide benefits to gay partners who are not married. According to a draft Defense Department memo, the department instead may provide up to 10 days of leave to military personnel in same-sex relationships so they can travel to states where they can marry legally.
While no final decisions have been made, the memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to top defense leaders would reverse the earlier plan that would allow same-sex partners of military members to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs.
CHICAGO (AP) - A Cook County judge is hearing arguments on whether to dismiss a case challenging Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage.
The lawsuit being heard Tuesday before Circuit Judge Sophia Hall involves 25 couples who filed for marriage licenses in Cook County and were denied.
However, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has refused to defend the state's ban, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. She says it violates the state constitution's equal protection clause. Attorney General Lisa Madigan has argued against the ban because the case brings the constitutionality of state laws into question.
Clerks from downstate were allowed to intervene and defend the ban.
Illinois approved civil unions in 2011, but attempts to legalize gay marriage have stalled.
CHICAGO (AP) - Gay marriage supporters are launching a $2 million statewide campaign to approve same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Illinois Unites for Marriage is a coalition representing gay rights, civil rights and political groups.
In a statement Tuesday, the group says it will place 15 field organizers throughout the state to engage supporters. They plan to target legislators who oppose a measure to lift Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage.
The Illinois Senate passed the bill in February. It wasn't called for a vote in the House because the bill's sponsor said it didn't have the votes to pass.
Jim Bennett is chairman of the coalition. He says the next few months are critical because lawmakers could take up the bill in the fall.
Opponents say marriage should be between a man and woman.
CHICAGO (AP) - Gay rights advocates say Sen. Mark Kirk's announcement that he supports gay marriage is "a sign of progress."
Kirk posted a statement on his blog Tuesday saying same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage. He says what matters in life is who you love and "government has no place in the middle."
He is the second Republican in the U.S. Senate to back same-sex marriage.
Rick Garcia is director of the Equal Marriage Illinois Project. He says momentum is growing for marriage equality, especially among Republicans.
Opponents like Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute disagree. Higgins says Kirk and other Republicans who back gay marriage are contributing to the destruction of marriage and diminished religious liberty.