Same-Sex Couples in Lambda Legal and ACLU Marriage Cases Win Day in Court

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September 27, 2013

Today a judge denied motions to dismiss our cases seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Illinois. We’re going to have our day in court to fight for dignity and equality for the 25 plaintiff couples represented in the lawsuits brought by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Although the court dismissed the sex discrimination and other claims specific to the Illinois constitution, the plaintiffs can obtain everything they seek — a declaration that the marriage ban is unconstitutional and an order requiring the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — through the claims that remain. 

Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed the cases in May of 2012. The decision today comes in response to a motion brought by interveners representing a number of downstate clerks defending the Illinois ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples. These clerks intervened after Cook County Clerk David Orr and Attorney General Lisa Madigan refused to defend the statute. The downstate clerks had asked the court to dismiss the cases without any further exploration of the constitutional questions raised by the 25 plaintiff couples represented in the lawsuit. The court rejected that argument.

We’re thrilled — but we still have a lot of work to do. The Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA has made the inadequacy of civil unions even clearer. Nothing stands between our plaintiff families and equal access to federal benefits and protections — except Illinois’ discriminatory exclusion from marriage. Illinois can fix this — and it should.

Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, said:

We are pleased that the court saw that our couples have a right to their day in court on the merits of their claims for liberty and equality. Illinois’ marriage ban not only brands these couples and their children as inferior under state law, but now that the federal law known as “DOMA” has been struck down by the Supreme Court, Illinois is the only thing standing between these families and full federal respect for their relationships. Loving same-sex couples in Illinois can’t wait any longer for the freedom to marry.  We’re excited to get to the next step and make the case for equality.

John Knight, Director of the LGBT Project at the ACLU of Illinois, said:

This ruling is a big step forward in putting an end to government-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples and their families in Illinois, but we must continue to push forward until loving lesbian and gay couples have the freedom to marry here in Illinois. Same-sex couples and their children have been waiting far too long in Illinois for the freedom to marry, watching as state after state has recognized that lesbians and gay men should have the freedom to marry while Illinois continues to deny them the respect associated with marriage, as well as the full access to the federal protections and responsibilities.

There are many paths to justice, and we will follow them all with everything we have! Lambda Legal will keep fighting in court, and also keep working with our partners in Illinois Unites for Marriage seeking passage of a marriage equality bill in the state legislature. And we will March on Springfield on October 22 to let our elected officials know that same-sex couples in Illinois can’t wait any longer for justice.

We have momentum — and you are part of it! Please join the March on Springfield on October 22, contact your legislators, and support our work. Together, we will win the freedom to marry in Illinois!

Read more about these cases here and here.

Read the press release.