An Illinois state representative and a state senator have said they will seek legislative approval of same-sex marriage in the state in three weeks.

Representative Greg Harris and Senator Heather Steans, both Democrats from Chicago hope to answer Governor Pat Quinn’s wish that he can sign into law equal marriage as early as January.

Mrs Steans told reporters “we’re in striking distance of being able to get it done.” Her colleague Mr Harris said: “It’s very straightforward. We treat all couples with the same respect and dignity in the eyes of the law and we protect the rights of religious institutions to either consecrate or not consecrate marriages within their faith as they see fit.

“It’s very important that government not involve itself in religion on either side of the issue.”

If passed, the politicians hope that gay couples will be able to marry on July 1st 2013.

In June, the attorney general of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, and Cook County’s state attorney, Anita Alvarez, both announced that they will no longer defend cases brought against the state over the Defense of Marriage Act, saying it violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause.