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Lawsuits Seek Gay Marriage Legalization In Illinois

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 30, 2012 2:00PM

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal each plan to file lawsuits today in Cook County Circuit Court claiming that not allowing same-sex marriages in Illinois is a violation of the Illinois Constitution.

The lawsuits, filed against the Cook County Clerk, argue that not allowing marriages to gay and lesbian couples in Illinois is a violation of the due process and equal protection provisions in the Constitution's bill of rights. Here's the exact wording.

"No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor be denied the equal protection of the laws."

Gay rights advocates, especially those in favor of same-sex marriage, view this wording as guaranteeing them the right to marry. The ACLU suit will try to prove that the state constitution's right to privacy protects against a gay marriage ban. Lambda Legal's argument also claims that the state's ban on “special legislation” that favors a specific group also prohibits a same-sex marriage ban

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman and states "A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this State." Illinois currently allows civil unions. With legislation to legalize same-sex marriage currently stalled in Springfield, they see this language in the Constitution as another opportunity for same-sex marriage to be recognized, although they have said they still will continue to lobby legislators to pass a same-sex marriage bill.

25 couples are plaintiffs in the suits. Each tried to apply for a marriage license with Cook County Clerk David Orr's office and was rejected, citing the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act. (Orr is a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage.) A statement from Orr's office read.

"The time is long past due for the state of Illinois to allow county clerks to issue marriage license to couples who want to make their commitment. I hope these lawsuits are the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all."

Gov. Pat Quinn has voiced his support of same-sex marriage, so it's unknown if the Cook County State's Attorney will fight the lawsuits.