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ACLU, Lambda pursue IL marriage cases after DOMA ruling
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2013-07-10

This article shared 4671 times since Wed Jul 10, 2013
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Stating that the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling changes the landscape in Illinois, LGBT groups are asking a judge to grant summary judgment in favor of same-sex couples who want to marry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Lambda Legal filed a joint motion for summary judgment in lawsuits that seek to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage July 10. The filing asks Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall to rule in favor of the same-sex couples, rather than moving forward with the case.

The groups announced the motion during a press call July 10.

The filing comes in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The overturning of DOMA raises serious questions in Illinois, a state that offers civil unions for same-sex couples but continues to deny marriage recognition.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed suit in May 2012 against Cook County Clerk David Orr on behalf of 25 same-sex couples. Orr and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to fight the lawsuits, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan intervened in support of the couples. A group of county clerks filed to intervene to oppose the lawsuits.

LGBT groups have also been pushing for the passage of an Illinois bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.

Now, LGBT advocates say the DOMA ruling raises the stakes in Illinois.

"Only marriage will provide same-sex couples in Illinois all the federal protections that are available in now 13 other states and the District of Columbia—things like medical leave, protections for federal employees, tax benefits, veteran's benefits…" said John Knight, LGBT and AIDS Project director for the ACLU.

Questions remain over how the DOMA ruling will impact same-sex spouses in Illinois. Legal experts predict that couples who marry outside of the state will likely have access to more benefits than couples who get Illinois civil unions. That is because civil unions are not federally-recognized in the same way marriages are.

Even then, married same-sex couples in Illinois will likely be denied certain benefits, as some federal programs look at the laws of the state one lives in when considering eligibility.

That, say LGBT advocates, adds urgency to the Illinois cases.

"The end of DOMA makes what we're doing today in moving for summary judgment all that more important," said Knight.

The groups contend that civil unions brand same-sex spouses as inferior to heterosexual couples and that the denial of federal benefits is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The July 10 filing includes 50 affidavits from each plaintiff detailing the reasons they need access to marriage.

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, argued that the facts of the case are indisputable and that summary judgment should be granted on that basis.

"The other side will have an opportunity to come back and see if they can produce any evidence that create a dispute of facts," said Taylor. "We do not believe that they are capable of doing so."

But Lambda Legal and the ACLU are not alone in asking for a swift and favorable ruling in the cases. The Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm representing opposing clerks, has filed a motion to dismiss the case altogether. Oral arguments on that motion are scheduled for Aug. 6.

Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society, argues that the ACLU and Lambda Legal should have focused efforts on swift action on that motion, which he accused the groups of trying to delay.

"There were plenty of ways to seek a swift decision that were not taken here," he said.

Breen said that he feels the Supreme Court ruling striking strengthens his case in Illinois, affirming states' rights to determine marriage laws.


This article shared 4671 times since Wed Jul 10, 2013
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