Opponents to equal marriage in the US state of Illinois have celebrated the fact that the bill to legalise same-sex unions never went to a vote a week ago.

The bill’s sponsor Greg Harris wept as he announced that, due to a lack of support, the bill would not be voted on. Mr Harris said he planned to lobby for the bill before the next legislative session in the autumn.

Brian Brown, the president of the adamantly anti-gay National Organisation for Marriage, released a statement commending his organisation for its efforts to block equal marriage.

“This effort to redefine marriage in Illinois was one of the most fiercely contested legislative battles in the country this year.

“This is a great victory for our allies and supporters, as well as Illinois families who have worked tirelessly with us to preserve marriage in Illinois. We are gratified that our collective hard work has paid off in this stunning victory.”

Particularly noting the African American community in the state who opposed equal marriage, Brown spoke of a coalition which worked towards blocking the motion.

“With a coalition that included strong support from the African American community as well as so many others throughout the state, we did what nobody in the intelligentsia thought was possible. This is a huge victory at a pivotal time, and totally undercuts the lie that somehow same-sex marriage is inevitable,” he said.

Opponents to the bill may be calling “victory” prematurely however, as Mike Madigan, House Speaker extended the deadline for the bill to August 31, allowing it a new potential lease of life, if its advocates can gather support before then.

Lawmakers in the US state of Illinois also wrote an open letter apologising to advocates of equal marriage in the state as the bill failed to be called for a vote, despite passing in the Senate on Valentine’s Day.