2 downstate Illinois county clerks receive permission to defend gay marriage ban
by GoPride.com News Staff
CHICAGO, IL -- A judge Tuesday granted two downstate Illinois county clerks permission to defend the state's 16-year-old gay marriage ban in court.
Tazwell County Clerk Christie Webb (D) credit :: tazewell.com
The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based not-for-profit law firm that opposes gay marriage, late Friday filed a request to intervene on behalf of Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel and Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall granted the motion Tuesday morning.
Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of 25 gay and lesbian couples, decided not to oppose the petition to intervene in the case.
"While these two clerks do not have any legal right to intervene in someone else's lawsuit simply to share their opinion about what they want the law to be, we are not opposing their participation under the unique circumstances in this case because it is important that everyone feel as though the opposing arguments were fairly presented," Lambda Legal's Marriage Project Director Camilla Taylor said in a statement.
The Society is representing the clerks who enter the case following the decision of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan not to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Alvarez and Madigan agree with the lawsuit that claims the ban is unconstitutional.
Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is the subject of the original suits, agrees that the current law is unconstitutional and refuses to defend it.
"Despite a statewide campaign by homophobic groups trying to convince county clerks to defend the current marriage law, only two of the 102 clerks stood up for perpetuating discrimination," said Randy Hannig, Director of Public Policy for Equality Illinois.
An Equality Illinois study released in June found clear and consistent patterns where civil union couples were treated unequally, denied rights or protections, or stigmatized.
"As we feared, civil unions did not turn out to be equal to civil marriages, and separate does not make equal," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. "Sadly, our research also found that in area after area, whether tax law, health insurance, hospitalization, family issues, personal finance and actions by state and local officials, couples in civil unions were either treated unequally or denied their rights, or singled out for discrimination."
The clerks have filed a motion to dismiss the case. The ACLU and Lamda have 45 days to respond to that request. The judge set a hearing on that motion for Sept. 27.