Guest blog posts / News & Politics

Marriage equality for Illinois: chugging along two tracks and giving me a headache

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Illinois, my home state, is giving me a headache.  As the struggle for marriage equality progresses, I have to take my doses of Advil in order to cope.  My most recent migraine started when I decided to attend a debate last Tuesday on marriage equality between two of its backers, State Representative Greg Harris, (the House leader on marriage equality) and out lesbian Chicago Alderman Deborah Mell, (yes Rod Blagojevich’s sister-in-law), and those fighting marriage equality: Thomas More Society senior counsel Peter Breen and Catholic Conference of Illinois executive director Robert Gilligan.  Painful, painful, painful.

Mr. Breen, (who is representing five downstate County Clerks in litigation fighting marriage equality), and Mr. Gilligan, (no island jokes please), made the very same arguments we heard in the DOMA case: marriage is solely for the purpose of procreation; we don’t have enough experience with same sex marriage to fully understand how it will impact society and the institution of marriage; marriage equality will inevitably lead to teaching about homosexual relationships in schools and thus will harm children; religious institutions that oppose marriage equality will be forced to abandon their beliefs; blah, blah, blah.

The counter-arguments are so obvious and compelling that I wanted to leap from my chair and intervene in the debate, even thought Representative Harris did a fine job.  Alderman Mell, well not so much.  Anyway, progress in Illinois proceeds along two tracks.

A bill sponsored by Representative Harris – HB 110: The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act – has already passed the Senate and Governor Pat Quinn has promised to sign it.  Harris did not call for a vote earlier this year as he lacked the votes in the Democratic-controlled House to gain passage.  Work has continued to lobby religious conservative, (largely African American) Democrats, including calls from the White House, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and Civil Rights legend and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.  There seems to be a general consensus that the legislation will clear the House after the legislative primary elections in the Spring.  A knowledgeable source close to the legislative process recently told me that “we will have marriages next summer.”

While the legislative process plays out, litigation is proceeding (full disclosure: I am not a lawyer).  A case filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU in 2012 claims that the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) is unconstitutional and therefore violates the rights of the 25 plaintiff same sex couples.  Plaintiffs originally sued Cook County Clerk David Orr, who declined to defend the lawsuit because he agreed with the plaintiffs.  Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan similarly declined.  Enter the Thomas More Society and the above-mentioned Mr. Breen.  Representing five downstate Illinois county clerks, Mr. Breen was able to convince the court to allow the clerks of counties representing a total of two hundred thousand residents to intervene. Cook County Clerk Orr by comparison represents 5.2 million Illinoisans.

In a recent ruling marking a major victory for the ACLU and Lambda Legal, Judge Sophia Hall did dismiss three of the plaintiff’s claims but allowed the case to proceed with arguably the most important elements: 1) that the marriage ban violates equal protection of the laws based on sexual orientation, and 2) that the plaintiffs have been denied due process of law.  Most interestingly, a motion by plaintiffs for summary judgment is pending with Judge Hall which, if granted, could require Illinois Clerks to begin issuing licenses to same sex couples, making the shenanigans in Springfield mute.

All in, while my headaches continue, the wheels of justice continue to turn slowly and it seems inevitably towards a positive resolution — I just wish they would stop crushing my face in the process.

So get ready to come to Illinois next summer for some fabulous weddings.  I will bring the Advil.



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One Comment

  1. Will you stand up at ours?


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