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Lawsuit Challenging Illinois' Same-Sex Marriage Ban Can Proceed

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 27, 2013 5:55PM

A couple files their civil union license with the county after their union formally declared by a judge. (Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist)

A Cook County judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit filed by 25 couples challenging Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage may proceed. While Judge Sophia H. Hall dismissed the sex discrimination and other claims specific to the Illinois constitution, she did rule plaintiffs can seek a declaration that the marriage ban is unconstitutional and an order requiring the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement, "We are pleased that the court saw that our couples have a right to their day in court on the merits of their claims for liberty and equality. Illinois' marriage ban not only brands these couples and their children as inferior under state law, but now that the federal law known as ‘DOMA’ has been struck down by the Supreme Court, Illinois is the only thing standing between these families and full federal respect for their relationships. Loving same-sex couples in Illinois can't wait any longer for the freedom to marry. We're excited to get to the next step and make the case for equality."

John Knight, Director of the LGBT Project at the ACLU of Illinois, called the ruling “a big step forward in putting an end to government-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples and their families in Illinois, but we must continue to push forward until loving lesbian and gay couples have the freedom to marry here in Illinois.”

"Same-sex couples and their children have been waiting far too long in Illinois for the freedom to marry, watching as state after state has recognized that lesbians and gay men should have the freedom to marry while Illinois continues to deny them the respect associated with marriage, as well as the full access to the federal protections and responsibilities,” Knight added.

Attorneys defending the lawsuit, including two downstate clerks who were granted permission to defend the ban in court last year after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said they would not, believe the challenge will be struck down as it works its way through the courts. Attorney Paul Linton, representing the Thomas More Society, told the Sun-Times, “In our views two of the principle purposes of preserving marriage as an institution between a man and woman... It advances the interest in the procreation of children and providing a stable legal, environment, social environment for children to be raised.”

If the Illinois Legislature winds up legalizing same-sex marriage, the lawsuit will become moot.