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Marriage equality lawsuit filed in Illinois

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Today, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois will each file a lawsuit contending that the state’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the equal protection and due process rights of those couples under the state’s constitution.  Activists in the state, who successfully shepherded a civil unions bill into law last year, had been pursuing a legislative strategy, but a House bill that was introduced earlier this year was removed from consideration in the middle of the session.  While there are no plans to abandon their legislative push, marriage equality advocates in the state believe that a more feasible path to marriage rights in the state might be through the judicial system.

“We feel like we’re at a tipping point,” said Camilla Taylor, a Lambda Legal attorney who headed up a similar case that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa. “You reach a point where you can no longer tell these families that they should hold off. You lack the justification when we reach a national moment, when it’s clear that our time is now.”  After President Barack Obama announced his support for marriage equality earlier this month, Illinis Gov. Pat Quinn announced his endorsement as well.

The two suits will be filed on behalf of 25 couples from across Illinois, all of whom attempted to obtain a marriage license from the Cook County clerk’s office and were denied due to an Illinois law that states, “A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this State.”  Intriguingly, the office of David Orr, the Cook County Clerk, released a statement today that 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.”

The two Illinois lawsuits resemble In re Marriage Cases, the series of consolidated lawsuits that were filed in California after the state enacted a domestic partnership law.  In that case’s landmark ruling, the California Supreme Court held that marriage is a fundamental right under the state constitution and that withholding only the title of ‘marriage’ from gay couples while providing them all of the rights and privileges accorded to married couples violated their equal protection rights.  That ruling would lead to the passage of Proposition 8, followed by the Prop 8 trial.

It is unclear at this point whether or not Gov. Quinn will defend Illinois’s mini-DOMA in court.  As with the other marriage equality cases being argued throughout the country, will have more news and analysis of the new Illinois lawsuits as they progress through the courts.


  • 1. Sagesse  |  May 30, 2012 at 9:03 am


  • 2. Scott Wooledge  |  May 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Hmmmmm… I presume the coordinated timing of these two orgs isn't coincidental? I guess the idea is for them to eventually be consolidated as they were in California?

    If that presumption is true, anyone know the judicial strategy of LL & ACLU filing two cases instead of just consolidating efforts from day one?

  • 3. Jamie  |  May 30, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Multiple lawsuits can create a image of a groundswell of support, kind of like shock and awe. There may also be issues raised in one lawsuit, that are not raised in the other due to either the plaintiffs or the organization that submitted the suit. As well, if one case is thrown out due to some technical issue, the other case may survive.

    Probably a good question for Chris Geidner though. He might have more background.

  • 4. Scott Wooledge  |  May 30, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    The public relations optics of seeming to create a groundswell are rather undermined by announcing the lawsuits simultaneously.

    It looks coordinated and besides, they will be reported in the same news story, as they have been here. Staggering the announcements by a few months would be a better public relations strategy.

  • 5. Jamie  |  May 31, 2012 at 12:39 am

    That just doesn't make sense at all.

  • 6. Afonso  |  May 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Lambda's complaint:

    Other docs:

  • 7. Afonso  |  May 30, 2012 at 11:12 am

    ACLU's complaint:

  • 8. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  November 29, 2012 at 10:02 am

    […] could take up marriage equality in 2013. Lambda Legal and the ACLU, along with plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases filed by the two groups, met with legislators urging them to pass a marriage […]

  • 9. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  December 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    […] a hearing will be held in the marriage equality lawsuit taking place in Illinois. The lawsuit, filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU, is backed by the Illinois Attorney General and […]

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