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Topics In the News
Marriage Lawsuits Target Illinois
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/04/12
Last updated on: 06/04/12
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Two of the plaintiffs in Darby v. Orr.

On May 30, 2012, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed suit against the state of Illinois on behalf of 25 same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. The suits, Darby v. Orr, on behalf of 16 couples, and Lazaro v. Orr, on behalf of nine, allege that the law that prevents same-sex couples from marrying violates the Illinois Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process. Coming nearly a year after the state's civil union law took effect, the suits argue that the civil union law has failed to secure equal rights for same-sex couples.

In announcing the lawsuit, Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal's Marriage Project Director, who led the litigation that resulted in marriage equality in Iowa, said that the experience of the couples joined in civil unions has not been positive: "These couples and their children share a dream of being part of a married family. By excluding them from marriage, and relegating them to civil unions, our government has marked them as different and worth less than other Illinois families--and that is exactly how others treat them."

She added, "They have suffered disrespect in schools, workplaces, hospitals, and in their everyday interactions with government for long enough. They should have the freedom to marry--it's just time."

Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Clark echoed Taylor: "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. We are taking this case to court because, in our democracy, it is the job of our courts to uphold the Constitution and protect individual freedom."

The Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in Darby v. Orr may be found here.

Soon after the suits were announced, the named defendant in the lawsuits, David Orr, Cook County Clerk of Court, announced his support for marriage equality and his hope that "these lawsuits are the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all."

Then, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that she planned to intervene in the lawsuits, not to oppose them as might be expected, but to support the plaintiffs.

Jason Coombs at Prop 8 Trial Tracker observes that "With both Orr and Madigan expressing support for the lawsuits, it's an open question now as to who will actually defend the constitutionality of the civil unions law in court. David Orr would normally be represented in court by Anita Alvarez, the state attorney for Cook County, but it is unclear if the Democratic attorney will opt to defend the law, especially after Madigan's announcement."

It will, Coombs adds, "be interesting to see who steps forward to defend the law and if the courts decide to allow them to do so."

The video below presents the plaintiffs in the Lambda Legal suit, Darby v. Orr.

The following video presents one of the couples who are plaintiffs in the ACLU's suit, Lazaro v. Orr.

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