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What SCOTUS hath joined together, let Illinois not put assunder

If the Illinois Legislature won't do it, then maybe the courts will. Attorneys representing 25 same-sex couples filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court on July 10, 2013, that they hope will put an end to the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Along with the motion, the parties filed affidavits from each of the couples bringing the suit, testimony from public and private figures in support of the motion and a friend-of-the-court brief from scores of religious leaders and faith communities from around the state.

The plaintiffs base their argument, not surprisingly, on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. As we discussed in our July 2 post, the ruling means that same-sex married couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as opposite-sex married couples.

In this case, then, the plaintiffs say that state law denies them the protections recognized by the Supreme Court. DOMA's definition of marriage had an impact on many aspects of same-sex couples' lives, the court said, "from the mundane to the profound": Veterans benefits, tax benefits and family medical leave are just a few examples. Not to recognize same-sex marriage is to deny these citizens their rights, the plaintiffs argue.

Opposing counsel doesn't see this as a question of rights and privileges at all. The issue, said a member of the legal team defending the law, is whether the state ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.

That attorney added some harsh criticism of the plaintiffs' motion. They had delayed the lawsuit for months, he said, only to ask the court for a decision right now.

Illinois law bars same-sex marriage and does not recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. The state does allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, which confer many of the benefits of marriage, but the federal government does not consider couples in a civil union to be married.

No one ventured a guess as to how long the court will take to rule on the motion.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Groups seek to strike down ban on same-sex marriage in Illinois," Rex W. Huppke, July 10, 2013

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