25 Illinois couples file lawsuit for the freedom to marry

This morning, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois will announce twin lawsuits on behalf of 25 same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in Illinois. Each of the 25 couples applied for a marriage license in the Cook County clerk's office this month, but all were rejected. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act explicitly prohibits "2 individuals of the same sex" to marry, explaining, "A marriage between two individuals of the same sex is contrary to the public policy of the State."

Just under a year ago, Illinois approved a civil union law granting same-sex couples the rights and benefits that marriage affords. But a civil union is not a marriage, and the couples filing for the freedom to marry are asserting that the civil union law is not sufficiently fair and just. Today's lawsuits claim that refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the state constitution's equal protection and due process clauses. 

One of the 25 couples, Tanya Lazaro and Liz Matos, spoke with The Chicago Sun-Times about their motivations for the lawsuit. "A civil union to me didn't represent that [bond] - a marriage represents that," Lazaro told the newspaper. "We contemplated getting a civil union just for our protection, for our children's protection financially. But to me it did not represent a marriage and what I thought we were entitled to as citizens of this state and citizens of this country."

A bill that would have allowed for the freedom to marry stalled in the Illinois House earlier this year, so Lambda Legal and the ACLU turned to the judicial system as another avenue for achieving the vital protections that marriage provides. 

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

Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Camilla Taylor explained that it is time for Illinois to recognize relationships between committed and loving same-sex couples as marriage. "We feel like we're at a tipping point," Taylor told The Chicago Tribune. "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." 

Lambda Legal and the ACLU will announce the lawsuits at two concurrent press conferences in Chicago and Springfield. If you follow @LambdaLegal on Twitter, you can meet some of the couples involved at the lawsuit this morning. See a video featuring some of the couples below.   

In March, Freedom to Marry's National Campaign Director, Marc Solomon, led a community discussion on advancing the freedom to marry, and we will continue to help build public support in Illinois to provide support for legal and legislative action in the state.