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Cook County State Attorney files brief in support of marriage equality in Illinois

Darby/Lazaro Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

By Jacob Combs

Earlier this month, we wrote here at P8TT about two upcoming marriage equality cases in Illinois, Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, that argue the state’s civil unions law violates gay couples’ equal protection rights by treating them differently from straight couples.  The twist in Illinois is that David Orr, the Cook County Clerk and the defendant in both cases, supports marriage equality and has no plans to defend the civil unions law, and the state Attorney General has also expressed her plans to intervene in the case in favor of the plaintiffs and file a brief in support of equal marriage.

As expected, the Cook County State Attorney’s office filed a motion in the two cases yesterday supporting the plaintiffs’ position and agreeing that limting marriage in the state to straight couples is unconstitutional.  “We believe the plaintiffs are correct in their assertion that the Illinois Constitution upholds marriage equality for same sex couples just as it does for opposite sex couples,” Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the attorney’s office, told the Chicago Tribune in an email.

On June 21, Judge Moshe Jacobius will hear a motion to combine the two lawsuits.  It remains unclear who will step in to defend the civil unions law, although the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group which is active in abortion litigation, has said that it will provide support to anyone who defends Illinois’s marriage equality ban.

In related news, the AP published a piece yesterday titled “5 reasons gay marriage losing streak may be over,” hypothesizing that marriage equality opponents’ success in 32 states that have considered marriage bans might be coming to an end.  The AP pointed specifically to Washington and Maine as states where marriage equality advocates could chalk up their first wins: Washington because of the success of an “everything but marriage” referendum which passed by a 53-47 percent margin and the support of some Republican lawmakers (including a Republican representative from a conservative part of the state who said that her district seems “far more receptive to it than they’ve ever been in the past”), as well as increasingly positive polling, and Maine because the state narrowly voted down marriage rights a few years ago and advocates have been working to change voters’ hearts and minds.

Finally, the AP notes that President Obama’s support of marriage equality could make a difference in the two states.  He continues to be popular in Washington, with a 53 percent job approval rating, and marriage advocates in Maine are using his statement to help voters on the fence continue their evolution.  If Obama were to campaign on marriage equality in the two states, he could very well help bring full marriage rights to Washington and Maine.


  • 1. AnonyGrl  |  June 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

    This is good news!

  • 2. Bob Barnes  |  June 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

    What's the chances that the Illinois suits go unchallenged by anyone of real stature and the state refuses to let a religious-based law firm to have at it? Now that we've had nearly 5 years of this, we know that these religious-based groups rely on theatrics and rarely have any evidence. At this point is a mockery of the legal system to even move on in these cases.

  • 3. Paul Cook-Giles  |  June 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Does anyone have a link to the Cook County motion?

  • 4. Straight Dave  |  June 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Can the state just surrender by default if no intervention is allowed? I would think that the only plausible intervenor would be the legislature (or their BLAG equivalent) who passed the law in the first place. I wonder how much appetite there is for that these days with an election coming up. Is there any precedent for this situation?

  • 5. Regan DuC.  |  June 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

    NC certainly was an exercise in overkill where discrimination is concerned. As long as there is a break in the tradition of state and federal Constitution as documents of equal treatment and not discrimination, these amendments are hopefully all doomed over time.
    Gay men and women ARE tax paying, law abiding citizens and their right to being protected is supposed to be a guarantee. These laws are forcing them to be complicit in their own discrimination.
    And states don't have inexhaustible funds and resources to lock up the courts in what's an increasingly expensive endeavor to promote marriage discrimination.
    Another point to make is that none of these discriminatory laws actually protect or guarantee the endurance of actual marriages and families.
    In word, all this expensive political action for laws that are inert in their intent and purpose.
    And that do great harm to the target in the meantime.

    Jim Crow, didn't make white people more superior or moral than blacks. Similar discrimination against gays won't do that for hetero people either.

  • 6. Malisa  |  June 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

    <img src=>Nice job done, now we are waiting for more action from Obama. <img src=>

  • 7. Matt  |  June 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    We thought in California our losing streak would end; we thought in Maine it would end. While the numbers in our favor do not lie, our influence with the majority of likely voters, which is a more conservative segment, will only be known in retrospect. That being said, I am placing bets on winning at least two of the fights this November.

  • 8. Mike  |  June 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I think the AP is underplaying the chances of a successful vote in Maryland.

    There are a number of factors in play in the state:

    1. Maryland adjoins DC, and doesn't like DC being 'ahead' of Maryland. Marriage equality is already legal in DC, so Maryland now wants to catch up. That same opinion isn't quite the same with regards to the other states:
    West Virginia

    2. Maryland is a VERY blue state – the last time Maryland voted for a GOP Presidential candidate was 1988; the last time it voted for a GOP Presidential candidate three elections in a row was '48, '52, and '56. And all six Dem Reps and both Senators, along with all statewide state officials (all Dems) are in support of marriage equality;

    3. If the President is a Democrat, and is in favor or against something, that would almost certainly be the majority opinion in Maryland;

    4. The latest polls are now showing a 20 point or so margin in favor of upholding the marriage equality law (PPP shows it at 57-37). Even if the 'for marriage equality' vote diminishes by the usual 7%, the 'anti marriage equality' vote would need to vastly exceed the usual no change in polling predictions.

    5. Much of the 'anti marriage equality' polling was coming from the African-American population. Since President Obama was not very publicaly, until recently, for or against such equality, many African-Americans were taking the position expressed by their ministers (next in line in the 'pecking order' of opinion). Now that the President has decided for marriage equality, and in a VERY supportive manner, many AAs have 'adjusted' their opinion, and are now taking the President's side.

    6. Word is starting to spread in the AA community of NOM's 'divide and conquer' mentality, and many AAs are resentful that NOM is considering (or at least were) AAs as 'playing pieces' in a game.

    All in all, I think the AP radically underplayed Maryland, and the chances of a pro-marriage equality vote being successful in the state. If anything, maybe the list should have been expanded to 'Six'.

  • 9. Guest  |  June 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    County's don't have attorneys general. They have state's attorneys.

  • 10. Mike  |  June 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    And the highest court in each state is the Supreme Court, correct?

    Except in New York state, it is the Supreme Courts are the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in the state court system.

    Except in Maryland, the Supreme Court is where appeals are sent, and then if further appealed, it goes to the Court of Special Appeals.

    And I'm sure others could, if they wanted, would be able to give other examples where the highest court in the state is NOT the Supreme Court.

    Oh, and an entry at Wikipedia states:
    "In many jurisdictions in the United States, a District Attorney (DA) is an elected or appointed government official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses. The district attorney is the highest officeholder in the jurisdiction's legal department and supervises a staff of assistant (ADA) or deputy district attorneys. Similar functions are carried out at the local level in other jurisdictions by officers named the Commonwealth's Attorney, State's Attorney, County Attorney, or County Prosecutor. Depending on the system in place in the particular state or county, district attorneys may be appointed by the chief executive of the region or elected by the people."

    Remember, 98% (or even 99%) is NOT equivalent to, and the same as, 100%.

  • 11. Lymis  |  June 18, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Heck, Louisiana doesn't even have counties.

  • 12. Guest  |  June 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Oops…*counties. We all make mistakes 😉

  • 13. Ferdor  |  September 9, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    It will take further deliberations to combine both cases as both are intrinsincially differ in various degrees. criminal lawyer los angeles

  • 14. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  December 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    […] Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed their suits, both the Illinois Attorney General and the state attorney for Cook County (where the cases were filed) have publicly stated that they support marriage […]

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