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) - Opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage are gearing up for another push in the Illinois Legislature.
Supporters are planning a march and rally in Springfield on Tuesday, the first day of the Legislature's fall session. Gov. Pat Quinn and other lawmakers who support legislation legalizing same-sex marriage are expected to participate.
Opponents have scheduled a prayer rally at the Capitol on Wednesday. A group of African American clergy who oppose the measure also recorded radio ads in which they urge listeners to call lawmakers and tell them to vote no.
The Illinois Senate approved the legislation in February. The spring session ended without a House vote, after the bill's sponsor said he didn't have the support to pass it.
It's unclear if a vote will occur during the fall session.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — City halls in several New Jersey cities and towns are adding extra office hours today to accept marriage license applications for same-sex couples.
The state's highest court says the marriages can start Monday. Jersey City, Hoboken, and Asbury Park clerk's offices will be open today.
Gov. Chris Christie says he disagrees with the state Supreme Court ruling to recognize same-sex marriages in the state, but he will comply with the decision. He says the people, rather than the courts, should have been the ones to decide the issue.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen.-elect Cory Booker says he will officiate at weddings of both gay and heterosexual couples as the mayor of Newark. Booker was elected this week to the Senate and has been a strong supporter of gay rights.
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With gay marriage now legal in 13 states, some churches think it is only a matter of time before they are sued by gay couples.
That's why some Christian attorneys are advising churches to change their bylaws to include their belief that the Bible only allows marriage between one man and one woman.
Attorney Kevin Snider with the Christian legal group the Pacific Justice Institute is one of those recommending the bylaw change.
Snider says he doesn't know of any churches that have been sued yet, but some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits.
Critics say the changes are unnecessary.
Gay Christian Network Director Justin Lee says there is no movement to force churches to perform weddings that violate their religious beliefs.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The California Supreme Court has refused to stop gay marriages in the state.
In a brief ruling Wednesday, the high court tossed out a legal challenge by supporters of Proposition 8, the ballot measure passed by voters that banned same-sex marriages in California.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June left in place a trial judge's order striking down the ballot measure as unconstitutional. On June 28, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Prop 8 supporters had asked the state Supreme Court to stop the weddings, arguing that the federal court action applied narrowly and only to the two couples who filed the federal lawsuit challenging the ban.
With little comment, a unanimous state Supreme Court allowed gay marriages to continue.
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.