"You really had a sense that it's our time." Bennett said. "We moved when the iron was hot."
Some observers questioned whether advocates rushed too much, not taking time to iron out details that might have helped pick up some votes. But the bill's sponsor and other supporters said they had done their due diligence and the only glitch was the absence of three lawmakers whose backing was critical.
One suburban Chicago Republican, Sen. Suzi Schmidt, was absent because her mother died, while Democratic Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg was overseas for his daughter's bat mitzvah and Democratic Sen. James Clayborne had a family emergency.
Lawmakers note it's not unusual for an issue — especially one as controversial as same-sex marriage — to take several hearings before getting a floor vote. Cullerton and the bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, said they will spend the next few weeks of the new session, which begins Wednesday, trying to tweak the bill to allay Republican concerns about violations of religious freedom.
One supporter said votes could occur as early as February. Until then, they will continue to meet with legislators and tell their stories — an approach that has seemed to work well so far. And they say this week's events ignited their coalition in a way they haven't seen in nearly a decade.
"At the end of the day, I feel momentum is still behind us, and it's strong," Bennett said.
Associated Press writers Regina Garcia-Cano and John O'Connor contributed to this report.
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