Illinois Gay Marriage Ban Challenged

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Wingfield, Former WLP Intern

On May 30th, two dozen same-sex couples filed two separate law suits challenging the Illinois law that defines marriage as between a man and woman, which prohibits same-sex couples from marrying. Last year, Illinois legalized civil unions for same-sex couples which offer them the same legal protections as opposite-sex couples enjoy in marriage. However, Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos, one of the couples who filed a lawsuit against the Cook County Clerk’s office, argue that it is unconstitutional that they are not allowed to be married. In an article in the Huffington Post, Santos is quoted as saying, “Marriage means never having to explain that you are just like everyone else. My kids have to explain our relationship all the time and they shouldn’t have to.”

The lawsuits are led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Illinois and Lambda Legal, respectively. The Post reported that

John King, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois, said he thinks that the timing for the lawsuits is right — given rapidly shifting public sentiment and the support of powerful elected officials — and that the impact of a successful suit in Illinois could be powerful. “Wins in big, important states like Illinois are huge for this country,” King said.

The lawsuits come less than a month after President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage and, according to the New York Times, “recent public opinion surveys indicate support for same-sex marriage is rising nationwide.”

While there is currently a bill which would legalize same-sex marriage pending in Illinois legislature, advocates are fighting for equality in multiple venues to try and ensure that marriage law in Illinois does not continue to discriminate against same-sex couples. Indeed, according to the Times, John Knight, director of the ACLU’s gay-related litigation in the Midwest said that the group intended to “fight the battle in both [the legislative and judiciary] venues.”

We will keep you updated about this issue.

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