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Illinois Attorney General announces support for marriage equality lawsuits

Darby/Lazaro Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

The upcoming court battle in Illinois over the constitutionality of civil unions and the state’s prohibition on marriage equality looks like it promises to be an intriguing and unusual one.  Earlier this week, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois announced that they were simultaneously filing two lawsuits, Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, arguing that the civil unions the state began offering to gay and lesbian couples last year infringe upon those couples’ equal protection rights under the Illinois Constitution.

David Orr, who is the official government defendant in both lawsuits by virtue of his position as Cook County Clerk, is himself a supporter of marriage equality: in a statement released by his office last week, Orr wrote of his “hope [that] these lawsuits are the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all.”  Because of Orr’s position, it seems unlikely that he will elect to put forward any strong defense of the status quo once the cases make their way to court.

In another twist, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced over the weekend her plans to intervene in the two marriage cases–on the side of the plaintiffs.  Usually, state Attorneys General intervene in court cases when state laws are challenged in order to support those statutes, or, as in the case of Proposition 8 and California Attorney General Kamala Harris (like her predecessor Jerry Brown), they choose to opt out of such lawsuits if they do not support the law in question.  Madigan, however, believes that Illinois’s civil unions law does not in fact adequately protect equal protection rights, and plans to intervene on behalf of Lambda Legal and the ACLU in both cases.

With both Orr and Madigan expressing support for the lawsuits, it’s an open question now as to who will actually defend the constitutionality of the civil unions law in court.  David Orr would normally be represented in court by Anita Alvarez, the state attorney for Cook County, but it is unclear if the Democratic attorney will opt to defend the law, especially after Madigan’s announcement.

In California, when both the Governor and Attorney General declined to support Proposition 8 in court, the constitutional amendment’s official backers intervened in court to defend it.  In Illinois, however, there are no ballot proponents to stand up for the civil unions law (since it was enacted legislatively and not by a popular vote), and Democrats control both chambers of the legislature.  It will be interesting to see who steps forward to defend the law, and if the courts decide to allow them to do so.

19 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Mark  |  June 4, 2012 at 8:55 am

    What would have happened if then Attorney General Jerry Brown had defended the case, but put on no defense? Would anyone have been able to step in, as they did, and represent the state? The state would have been defending it.

  • 2. DBM  |  June 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

    "In Illinois, however, there are no ballot proponents to stand up for the civil unions law (since it was enacted legislatively and not by a popular vote), and Democrats control both chambers of the legislature."

    And the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan, is the father of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

  • 3. Who will defend the Illin&hellip  |  June 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

    [...] to intervene in the case — not to defend the law, but to join LL and the ACLU’s side. Jacob Combs writes: With both Orr and Madigan expressing support for the lawsuits, it’s an open question now [...]

  • 4. Who will defend the Illin&hellip  |  June 4, 2012 at 11:21 am

    [...] to intervene in the case — not to defend the law, but to join LL and the ACLU’s side. Jacob Combs writes: With both Orr and Madigan expressing support for the lawsuits, it’s an open question now [...]

  • 5. roybalisms  |  June 4, 2012 at 11:23 am

    awesome news!

  • 6. Bryce  |  June 4, 2012 at 11:30 am

    "In Illinois, however, there are no ballot proponents to stand up for the civil unions law (since it was enacted legislatively and not by a popular vote), and Democrats control both chambers of the legislature."
    If I'm not mistaken, the ability of the ballot proponents to stand up for Proposition 8 was a function of state law authorizing ballot proponents to defend laws in FEDERAL court (per the interpretation, however unwise, of the California Supreme Court). But, since this challenge is in STATE courts, it is unclear to me why there would need to be such a law giving anyone Article III standing. It seems to me like the state has fairly liberal slack in who it allows to intervene in state court, and they often allow many people to intervene. (Remember, this was the bogus justification that the California Supreme Court used to grant Article III standing to the Proponents–that states aren't constrained by Article III, and they basically allow anyone who walks in the door to intervene, regardless of their political inclinations.)

    Something else worth noting: Illinois Supreme Court justices are term limited. The current make up is 4 Democratic Justices, and 3 Republican ones. Now, one Democrat and one Republican are up in 2012, and the Governor does not get to make appointments, each judge is elected from a district (three from the first district and one each from the second, third, fourth, and fifth). Depending on how quickly the case progresses, the makeup of the court could change in elections in our favor or against us. It should be interesting to watch.

  • 7. Sagesse  |  June 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    @

  • 8. Stefan  |  June 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    We've seen over and over again rulings in support of marriage equality cross party lines in state supreme courts.

  • 9. Lymis  |  June 5, 2012 at 3:31 am

    And, sadly, that ballots on marriage equality bring out the worst in the electorate.

  • 10. nila4052  |  June 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    Hey admin,
    its really nice idea i think it would be helpful four all thank you for sharing us.</s>

  • 11. ngorcharego  |  August 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    lol .. good

  • 12. Ferdor  |  September 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I must commend them for their stance. This is a show of equality under the rule and sense of law. As a criminal defense lawyer los angeles. I have no qualms in supporting marriage equality.

  • 13. law  |  September 11, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Very good….

  • 14. Azad  |  November 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Not no but HELL NAW!!! Mike Irvin jumpin on the fruit loop wagon?!!! Please tell me he aint steewer than a pop tart and bottom feedin niggas in the locker room?!!!

  • 15. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  December 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    [...] Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed their suits, both the Illinois Attorney General and the state attorney for Cook County (where the cases were filed) have publicly stated that they [...]

  • 16. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  December 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    [...] lawsuit taking place in Illinois. The lawsuit, filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU, is backed by the Illinois Attorney General and the Cook County Clerk; the ban is defended by two county clerks and an anti-gay group has moved [...]

  • 17. canvas art  |  January 1, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. Thank you for sharing great information to us. It is really helpful

  • 18. Equality On Trial »&hellip  |  July 11, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    [...] to defend a marriage equality ban in court.  Last year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that she would not defend her own state’s lack of marriage equality in two state court [...]

  • 19. LGBT News! | Updated: Pen&hellip  |  July 11, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    [...] to defend a marriage equality ban in court.  Last year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced that she would not defend her own state’s lack of marriage equality in two state court cases, [...]

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