Twenty-five gay and lesbian couples have sued to overturn an Illinois state marriage law, saying it is unconstitutional to deny them the right to marry.
Traditional-values groups said they were developing their response to the lawsuits, with one spokesman predicting a “battle royale,”though there are fears that Illinois officials will just roll over and not defend their laws.
Illinois passed a civil-union law in 2011 that gives same-sex couples all the rights and benefits of opposite-sex married couples, but the 25 same-sex couples reject that compromise as stigmatizing and disrespectful.
“After 48 years together, we know very well what it means to love, honor and cherish. I have lived in Illinois all my life and I want to marry Patrick here. A civil union doesnt reflect what we mean to each other,” said James Darby, 80, referring to his partner, Patrick Bova, 73.
Mr. Darby and Mr. Bova are lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal. The lawsuit says the 16 couples “challenge their exclusion from civil marriage and seek to end the stigmatization and disrespect the State imposes upon them and their children by relegating them solely to the inferior status of civil union.”
A separate but similar lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Illinois on behalf of nine Illinois same-sex couples, led by Tanya Lazaro and Elizabeth Matos.
Both lawsuits name Cook County Clerk David Orr as a defendant, as his office registers marriages. The 25 couples all sought but were denied marriage licenses.
According to a statement, Mr. Orr supports gay marriage: “I hope this lawsuit clears the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all,” he said.
Gov. Patrick Quinn, a Democrat, supports gay marriage as well. A message left for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez was not immediately returned Wednesday.
The pro-gay marriage slant of key state officials quickly raised questions about whether they would defend the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
California officials refused to appeal a federal-court decision against the voter-passed Proposition 8 against gay marriage, leaving the initiative’s sponsors to defend the law. The Obama administration’s Justice Department also decided that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and would not defend it against court challenges.
The Alliance Defense Fund, which is active in virtually all gay-marriage lawsuits, will be involved in the Illinois cases, “but we’re still evaluating what that will be,” Dale Schowengerdt, an ADF attorney in Kansas, said Wednesday.
“We are discouraged and troubled by this effort, although not surprised,” said Laurie Higgins, a cultural analyst at Illinois Family Institute (IFI). Lambda Legal and their allies “never had any intention of being satisfied with our civil union law that passed last year,” she said, adding that IFI leaders already were discussing their options with their allies.
Don Feder, communications director for the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, based in Rockford, Ill., said the lawsuits were “predictable.”
“Proponents of so-called same-sex marriage know that they can never win in the court of public opinion, despite these phony public opinion polls,” he said. “So the only way they can get what they want is either through the courts or through legislative action, and more often than not, it’s through the courts.”
Noting that there are many conservative and family-values groups and affiliates in Illinois, Mr. Feder said, “I think [these lawsuits are] going to cause a battle royale.”
c This article is based in part on wire service reports.