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Downstate Clerks Want To Fight Cook County Gay Marriage Lawsuit

By Prescott Carlson in News on Jul 2, 2012 9:20PM

2011_6_2_civil_unions_couple2.jpg Two downstate county clerks say that if Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez do not want to defend against a lawsuit challenging the state's gay marriage ban, then they will take up the challenge.

A representative for the Thomas More Society filed a request on Friday asking that a judge allow Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb and Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel to step in and defend two lawsuits filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr by 25 same-sex couples that had been denied marriage licenses by Orr's office.

When the lawsuit was first announced last month, Alvarez said she agreed with portions of the lawsuit, and that because her office believed Illinois' gay marriage ban was unconstitutional, it would not be defending Orr's office in the matter. Madigan soon followed, and said that she thinks the ban doesn't meet the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Thomas More's executive director, Peter Breen, accused Alvarez and Madigan of conducting an "inside job" to overturn the state's ban, and of using a "crass political move to force same sex marriage on all Illinoisans."

Breen said that if the judge would allow his firm to take on the defense of the case, he believes "we have very good arguments to prevail because of the large body of case law that goes our way on it."

Camilla Taylor, the head lawyer in the lawsuit against Orr's office filed by Lambda Legal, told WBEZ that Breen's request was unfounded and that she will be moving ahead as planned.

"You can't intervene just because you have an ideological objection to the potential outcome, or because you're a public official required to follow the law, and the lawsuit has the potential to change it," Taylor said.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society generally focuses on abortion issues, but perhaps wants to get more into the marriage rights fight with the similarly named Thomas More Law Center, which touts itself as the conservative Christian alternative to the ACLU.