Lawsuits Seek to Legalize Gay Marriage in Illinois

Groups say barring same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional

Wednesday, May 30, 2012  |  Updated 5:20 PM CDT
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Now that President Barack Obama has endorsed same-sex marriage, its proponents say there's no time to waste. Couples from around Illinois on Wednesday filed a lawsuit asking a judge to do what the legislature so far has not. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

Now that President Barack Obama has endorsed same-sex marriage, its proponents say there's no time to waste. Couples from around Illinois on Wednesday filed a lawsuit asking a judge to do what the legislature so far has not. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

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The battle around same-sex marriage in Illinois headed to court Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Lambda Legal each filed lawsuits in Cook County Court seeking marriage for same-sex couples in Illinois.

“It is time for Illinois to recognize the love and commitment of these couples and thousands of others by allowing them the freedom to marry," said John Knight, LGBT project director for the ACLU of Illinois.

Nearly a year ago, Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on civil unions in the state and recently vowed to work with Illinois lawmakers to make same-sex marriages a reality here too.

"I don't think we want to wait on courts," Quinn said. "I think in Illinois, we are able to show the nation that we are a state that believes in respecting everyone. Everyone has dignity and rights."

The court fight is coming, though.

Lambda Legal, representing 16 same-sex couples, claims that barring the couples and their children from marriage is a violation of the Illinois Constitution's guarantee of Equal Protection and Due Process.

"Civil unions do not satisfy Illinois' guarantee of equality because they single out a group of people, treat them differently under the law, and deny them the fundamental right to marry," said Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Clark in a statement.

Clark said Lambda Legal is taking the case to court because "it is the job of our courts to uphold the Constitution and protect individual freedom."

Wednesday's suit is drawing fire from the Thomas More Society which opposes gay marriage.

"They weren't able to get through the legislature gay marriage and so now they're trying to an end run around the people of the state of Illinois by coming through the courts," said Peter Breen.

In February, three lawmakers filed a House bill they called the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act." The proposed legislation aimed to eliminate the part of state law that prohibits gay marriages and offer same-sex couples the marriage rights available to heterosexual couples. The bill was since pulled.

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