A traditional-values advocacy group says it will intervene to file legal papers this week in support of an Illinois marriage law, after officials in the Democrat-dominated state government refused to defend the law in court.
"Obviously, we feel that the marriage law needs to be defended," said Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which will be representing the Illinois Family Institute in a court battle over the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Two lawsuits filed by 25 gay couples seek to overturn sections of the law that forbid same-sex marriage.
In recent days, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, both Democrats, have announced that they agree with the gay plaintiffs that the law violates their right to equal protection under the law.
"It's unfortunate" that state officials are not going to defend the law, Mr. Nimocks said Wednesday. "So that means that it falls to the Illinois Family Institute to do so, and they are obviously very proud to do so, and we're happy to help with that."
Separately, Peter Breen, executive director of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a conservative public-interest law firm, said his organization will "soon be filing a legal response" on behalf of other individuals who support the marriage law.
"It is a travesty that a validly passed and constitutional law would be struck down with no one there to defend the law," said Mr. Breen.
The court battle began May 30, when the gay couples, led by James Darby and Patrick Bova, and Tanya Lazaro and Elizabeth Matos, sued in separate lawsuits to end their exclusion from civil marriage in Illinois.
The plaintiffs' attorneys, including lawyers with Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the marriage law is unconstitutional. They also rejected the newly passed civil union law, saying it makes gay couples' relationships and families appear "less worthy" in the eyes of others.
On Thursday, the plaintiffs' attorneys plan to appear at a procedural hearing before Judge Moshe Jacobius, presiding judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, where they may seek to consolidate their cases.
ADF is likely to file its brief soon after that hearing, and a news conference is scheduled for Friday morning, David E. Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said Wednesday.
The institute's 20-year mission includes upholding marriage, and in 1996, it pushed for the Illinois Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which outlawed same-sex marriage, said Mr. Smith. The Illinois DOMA passed with overwhelming margins in both the Illinois state Senate and House, but now "we have really devolved," he said. "None of our elected officials, who are sworn to defend the laws of the state, are doing that."
The government of Illinois is refusing to defend the law "because it's indefensible," Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at Lambda Legal, recently told the Chicago Tribune. When asked about potential intervenors in the case, she told the newspaper that she "can't imagine a party who would have standing to intervene in a lawsuit like this."
But Larry Jacobs, vice president and general manager of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Ill., said it was unlikely that the Illinois voters would want to sit quietly while their marriage law is overturned.
"The Chicago machine runs the political establishment," Mr. Jacobs said, but "if you remove Chicago, the whole state is very conservative."
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