Illinois Attorney General requests to intervene in marriage lawsuits

Last week, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed twin lawsuits against the Cook County clerk of courts on behalf of 25 same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in Illinois. The lawsuits argue that the current civil union law, which has been effect in Illinois for one year, does not provide sufficient protection for same-sex couples.

On Friday, Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of Illinois, filed two petitions to intervene in the marriage lawsuits - Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr. In both petitions, Madigan requests to intervene in the case in support of the same-sex couples, stating that she would like to demonstrate that the current civil union law is unconstitutional. She writes in the requests:

Petitioner respectfully requests the right to intervene in this case to present the Court with arguments that explain why the challenged statuatory provisions do not satisfy the guarantee of equality under the Illinois Constitution.

David Orr, the Cook County Clerk of Courts, is the named defendant in the lawsuits, and in accordance with the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which prohbits the freedom to marry in the state, he has been forced to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Despite this, he has applauded the lawsuits, saying in a public statement, "I hope this lawsuit clears the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all."

Since Orr and Madigan have both announced their support for the freedom to marry and opposition to the civil union law, it is unclear who will be defending the civil union law in court. Chris Geidner at Metro Weekly explains the debacle:

In the two other recent marriage-related lawsuit situations when this happened, another party stepped in to defend the law when the attorney general declined to do so.

In California, when then-Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) announced that he would be opposing the constitutionality of Proposition 8 there, the proponents of Proposition 8 were allowed to intervene in the constitutional amendment's defense. When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in consultation with President Obama, determined that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and stopped defending it, the Republican-led House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group stepped in and was allowed to intervene in the law's defense in several challenges.

In Illinois, however, there is no anti-LGBT amendment with a proponent to stand up for the law, and the Democrats control both chambers of the legislature. Sen. John Cullerton (D) is the Illinois Senate president, and the speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan (D), is the attorney general's father.

Freedom to Marry celebrates Attorney General Madigan's requests to intervene in these groundbreaking lawsuits in Illinois. With her support and the continued support of so many public officials who understand the importance of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, we can continue to advance marriage for all.