ACLU, Lambda Legal, and 25 Couples Sue for Equal Marriage Rights in Illinois

Later today, Lambda Legal and the ACLU will file lawsuits in Illinois demanding legal marriage rights for gay couples, the Chicago Tribune reports:

ILA total of 25 couples from across the state are plaintiffs in the two lawsuits. Each couple tried to get a marriage license from the Cook County clerk's office in May and was denied based on the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which prohibits marriage "between 2 individuals of the same sex" and states: "A marriage between 2 individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of this State."

The lawsuit will be announced at a press conference today at 10:30am in Chicago, according to an email Towleroad received from Lambda Legal.

The Tribune adds:

The gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois each plan to file a lawsuit Wednesday against the clerk of Cook County, claiming that not issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Illinois Constitution.

Activists say they will continue to press lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage. But these lawsuits mean that the judicial system, and possibly the Illinois Supreme Court, will play a role as well.

"We always thought this was something that had to happen," said ACLU attorney John Knight. "We think it's time to try in the courts, and we're optimistic about our chances."

"We feel like we're at a tipping point," said Camilla Taylor, a Lambda Legal attorney who headed up a similar case that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa. "You reach a point where you can no longer tell these families that they should hold off. You lack the justification when we reach a national moment, when it's clear that our time is now."

LazadoThe Chicago Sun-Times adds:

The planned lawsuits will make some of the same arguments that worked in Iowa: equal protection under the law and due process. The ACLU case will argue that the right to privacy in Illinois’ Constitution protects against a ban on gay marriage. California’s constitution had a similar right to privacy cited by that state’s high court in upholding a right to same-sex marriage. That law is under review in federal appellate court.

Lambda also argues that Illinois’ ban on “special legislation” that benefits one group over another prohibits a ban on same-sex marriage.

Chicago Police Det. Tanya Lazaro, 36, and her partner Liz Matos, 40, are one of the couples filing suit — Sun Times.

A marriage equality bill introduced in the Illinois legislature earlier this year isn't likely to see movement, as we noted in April.


  1. LexLuthor says

    As an Illinois resident, this feels like overkill and massive jumping the gun. The state legislature is likely to address this in the near future anyway. Let the legislative process take its course. Doing so will ensure that the outcome has more legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

    Rushing to court in order to force the issue will only turn off people here. In a state with lots of friendly LGBT laws and a populace and political system that has been fairly LGBT friendly…it makes little sense to use court action to achieve something that can be won through the legislative process.

    This just makes LGBT activist look like they are unwilling to do the leg work necessary to bring the public along and make a new law a solid win.

  2. Jake says

    @LexLuthor, at one time I would’ve agreed with you re: legislative process lending more legitimacy. ME, MD and WA all did this legislatively and the first thing the opponents did was gather signatures to do referenda against the law. There is no reason not to have both the legislative and judicial branches of the gov’t involved in advancing this issue.

  3. LexLuthor says

    Illinois is NOT a referendum state. We do have ballot initiatives, but they are nonbinding. If the legislature passes a law it will stay the law unless repealed by the legislature.

    Illinois is not a hotbed of religious fundamentalism and is largely controlled by Democrats from the Chicago metro area. There would be no danger that once gay marriage passed the legislature that it would be repealed by another one. The GOP here just does not have that sort of control, and Republican voters here are not nearly as motivated by these types of issues as they are elsewhere.

  4. says

    It’s not “overkill” when constitutional rights are being violated, and Lambda and the ACLU aren’t in the habit of jumping the gun–they select their cases. I don’t see why a lawsuit going forth wouldn’t put positive pressure on the legislature to get this going rather than keep stalling. Adding a big state like Illinois to the list of equality states would have a very good national impact and would serve as an important piece of the federal equality strategy. Part of the leg work can actually be the proper use of the judicial system–that’s how marriage equality first got off the ground in the US, after all.

  5. Jack says


    I have worked with both attorneys in the case, and I can tell you that if they had any doubts that going to the judicial system could harm the cause (at least to the extent that the potential downfalls outweighed the potential gains), they wouldn’t have filed this case. Go get ’em.

  6. Richard Harney says

    I live in Illinois and I want a court ruling. A court ruling in our favor is more solid than a legislative decision that can be changed or overturned later. A judicial ruling cannot be overturned by the legislative branch however. Also, there are no anti-gay arguments to where they could sue because their rights are not violated by gay marriage.

  7. Richard Harney says

    @LexLuthor. You just haven’t seen the anti gay people yet because we haven’t had this kind of divisive issue come up in our state. I am originally from Clinton, IL which is just south of Bloomington. It is just as much of a hick town as any and so are many of the other small towns like it that are spread all over this state including southern Illinois. The one thing we do have going for us in terms of public acceptance, is that we have many college towns. But we also have the Illinois Family Institute and AFTAH is in Naperville.

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