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Illinois Judge Asked to Overturn State Gay-Marriage Ban

Illinois laws prohibiting same-sex marriage should be declared unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal argued to a state court judge.

Today’s request for Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall in Chicago to void the laws comes two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s provision defining the relationship as between one man and one woman.

“The end of DoMA creates a new urgency and same-sex couples can’t wait any longer,” Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights advocacy group, said in a statement announcing the filing.

The Chicago court challenge, filed jointly in a pair of cases begun last year and involving 25 same-sex couples, follows similar bids in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Mexico.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, and Cook County Clerk David Orr, whose office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses, have declined to oppose the lawsuits, and defense of the ban has been taken up by intervening clerks from five counties outside the Chicago metropolitan area.

The counties have asked Hall to dismiss the lawsuits. Oral argument on that request is scheduled for Aug. 6.

County Clerks

The clerks are represented by attorneys from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, which describes itself on its website as a nonprofit public-interest law firm “that exists to restore respect in law for life, marriage and religious liberty.”

In its DoMA ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court “made clear its decision was not restricting the rights of states to define marriage for their people,” Peter Breen, a Thomas More lawyer, said today in a phone interview. “The court didn’t take the step that the folks on the other side wanted them to take.”

Breen today said Illinois lawmakers had a rational basis for doing what they did and that the suits should be thrown out.

“There are perfectly good reasons why the Legislature would define marriage based on the biological reality of men and women: the ability to procreate,” the attorney said. “From a public policy perspective, the reasons for marriage focus on the needs of children, who are necessary for the continuation of society.”

Illinois law recognizes same-sex civil unions. While the state Senate on Feb. 14 passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, the measure hasn’t been voted on by the Legislature’s lower house.

The cases are Darby v. Orr, 12CH19718, and Lazaro v. Orr, 12CH,19719, Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court, Chancery Division (Chicago).

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