State's Attorney Declares Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Thomas More Society says lawsuits, county's legal opinion area an "inside job"

By Mitchell Grogg
|  Thursday, Jun 14, 2012  |  Updated 7:41 PM CDT
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Cook County Clerk David Orr said he believes his position will be on the right side of history.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said he believes his position will be on the right side of history.

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Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, the Cook County Attorney's office announced Thursday.

The announcement came in response to recent lawsuits filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr alleging the denial of marriage licenses to gay couples is a violation the due process and equal protection clause of Illinois' constitution.

Orr and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez agree.

"The papers that we filed today make it clear that as the defendant, I totally agree with the plaintiffs that the existing law in Illinois, I believe, discriminates against those people seeking marriage licenses," Orr said Thursday.

Alvarez, the county's highest-ranking attorney, normally defends the county against lawsuits. Not this time.

"It may be a little unusual, I think, but these lawsuits are unprecedented in Illinois. I'm very comfortable with the position we're taking," she said.

Their announcement comes a month after Illinois Gov Pat Quinn pledged to work to make same-sex marriage a reality in Illinois, and President Obama's announcement supporting gay marriage.

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, was quick to criticize Orr and Alvarez's position, which could bring same-sex marriage to Illinois by way of the courts rather than through legislation.

The organization called Thursday's announcement an "inside job."

"This lawsuit was ... a crass political move to force same sex marriage on all Illinoisans without providing the residents of the other 101 counties an opportunity to be heard.," Peter Breen, Executive Director of the group said in a statement.

"The Thomas More Society is preparing legal papers to defend the law and prevent this collusive end run around the will of the people of Illinois and their General Assembly," he continued.

Orr contended the issue is not a religious one, but one of government.

"We're talking about government here," he said. "I know there's passions on the issue, but we're not talking about marriage in the sense of religion. We're talking about what government does, and government should not be in the business of discriminating against people."

The lawsuits that brought about this announcement were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the gay rights group Lambda Legal.

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