June 15, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Earlier this month, we wrote here at P8TT about two upcoming marriage equality cases in Illinois, Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, that argue the state’s civil unions law violates gay couples’ equal protection rights by treating them differently from straight couples. The twist in Illinois is that David Orr, the Cook County Clerk and the defendant in both cases, supports marriage equality and has no plans to defend the civil unions law, and the state Attorney General has also expressed her plans to intervene in the case in favor of the plaintiffs and file a brief in support of equal marriage.
As expected, the Cook County State Attorney’s office filed a motion in the two cases yesterday supporting the plaintiffs’ position and agreeing that limting marriage in the state to straight couples is unconstitutional. “We believe the plaintiffs are correct in their assertion that the Illinois Constitution upholds marriage equality for same sex couples just as it does for opposite sex couples,” Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the attorney’s office, told the Chicago Tribune in an email.
On June 21, Judge Moshe Jacobius will hear a motion to combine the two lawsuits. It remains unclear who will step in to defend the civil unions law, although the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group which is active in abortion litigation, has said that it will provide support to anyone who defends Illinois’s marriage equality ban.
In related news, the AP published a piece yesterday titled “5 reasons gay marriage losing streak may be over,” hypothesizing that marriage equality opponents’ success in 32 states that have considered marriage bans might be coming to an end. The AP pointed specifically to Washington and Maine as states where marriage equality advocates could chalk up their first wins: Washington because of the success of an “everything but marriage” referendum which passed by a 53-47 percent margin and the support of some Republican lawmakers (including a Republican representative from a conservative part of the state who said that her district seems “far more receptive to it than they’ve ever been in the past”), as well as increasingly positive polling, and Maine because the state narrowly voted down marriage rights a few years ago and advocates have been working to change voters’ hearts and minds.
Finally, the AP notes that President Obama’s support of marriage equality could make a difference in the two states. He continues to be popular in Washington, with a 53 percent job approval rating, and marriage advocates in Maine are using his statement to help voters on the fence continue their evolution. If Obama were to campaign on marriage equality in the two states, he could very well help bring full marriage rights to Washington and Maine.