ACLU and Lambda Legal Back Lawsuit for Gay Marriage in Illinois

Last year, Illinois became one of what’s now ten states that offer civil unions or domestic partnerships with the same legal rights as marriage to same-sex couples. But as tends to be the case, many same-sex couples in Illinois find that “the same legal rights as marriage” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “marriage.” Illinois currently has legislation “pending” that would eliminate language currently on the books that expressly outlaws same-sex marriage, but it’s not clear when the future of that legislation will be decided; the legislative session ends this week, and it doesn’t appear that a vote will come before then.

Although as a nation we’re most familiar with legislative approaches to marriage equality, twenty-five couples in Illinois are attempting something different: a lawsuit that claims outlawing marriage equality is inconsistent with Illinois’s state constitution. They’re backed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois, and they’re prepared to go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. Some of the couples involved in the lawsuit have civil unions, and some don’t, but all want the right to be married. The suit is being led by Tanya Lazaro, a Chicago police detective, and Elizabeth Matos, a systems analyst, who have two children together, and who think their 15-year relationship should be recognized as a marriage.

Technically, the lawsuit names Cook County Clerk David Orr, in recognition of the fact that the nine couples involved in the lawsuit were turned away when applying for marriage licenses in Cook County. Ironically, Orr is actually a supporter of same-sex marriage personally, saying that it’s “past time for Illinois to allow county clerks to issue marriage licenses to couples who want to make a commitment,” and that he hopes “this lawsuit clears the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all.” Illinois’s governor, Pat Quinn, also supports marriage equality. The curious twist that most of the people involved in this process, even the ones on the “other side,” are all hoping for the same result says something about where the nation stands in regards to gay marriage — it seems like, as polls show, real people are often supportive. It’s the government, and the inertia of our legal system and time-honored “tradition,” that both gay families and allies still have to contend with.

Tanya Lazaro and Elizabeth Matos have been together for 15 years, and their union has only been able to be recognized by their state for one; no matter what legal union they pursue, it still won’t be recognized by the federal government. Right now, neither of their children can tell their friends that their parents are married in the same way that most of their friends’ parents likely are. But the couple’s second daughter is only a few weeks old; maybe, by the time she understands what the institution of marriage is, it’s something her parents will be able to take part in.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. so proud of my state right now and co-workers at lambda legal for putting up a magnificent fight right now!!!

  2. “The suit is being led by Tanya Lazaro, a Chicago police detective, and Elizabeth Matos, a systems analyst, who have two children together, and who think their 15-year relationship should be recognized as a marriage.”

    So badass.

    I really hope this goes through. It’s nice to see so much personal support, but it would be even nicer to see that translated into true civic support.

  3. Autostraddle – can we have a post that is critical of all kinds of marriage and points out some of the problems with the discourse on gay marriage in America? While in a system that rewards married partnership with over a thousand federal benefits, marriage becomes essential but as we campaign to have gays and lesbians included in this system, we have to ask ourselves why we are championing marriage at the cost of a debate on whether these rights should be tied to marriage at all? Should we instead be campaigning for all marriage – gay and straight – to be of less legal value so that those who opt out of the institution for any reason are then not excluded from recognition for their families and indeed from rights that ought not to be tied to marriage?

    • Autostraddle seems like an excellent forum for such a conversation!

      Durga, are we the only two radical queers on the site? Or do you think the others simply avoid these sorts of homonormative articles in favor of…? Hmm, what is here for us?

  4. “But the couple’s second daughter is only a few weeks old; maybe, by the time she understands what the institution of marriage is, it’s something her parents will be able to take part in.”

    Poignant. Nicely written.


    fyi! – a very well written article illustrating the need to critically rethink the gay marriage movement. Organisations like Lambda, in their statements on gay marriage, have suggested that gay people are somehow trapped in a perpetual state of adolescence until they can marry. This is not only ridiculous because not-marrying is no more a juvenile choice than marrying but also ahistorical, insulting and discriminatory to the many many thousand families and kinship arrangements in the US and around the world that gay people consider their primary partnerships, that do not centre on marriage.

    Read also:

    • _A New Queer Agenda_! A brilliant friend of mine just told me about this exciting new publication!

      Duggan’s positive, constructive, forward-thinking, critical approach is so refreshing! Yes, let’s ask ourselves why marriage is the best option. Boggis’s piece is more succinct and equally valuable: we need to recognize (socially and legally) more than one model of what a family can look like.

      Thank you for sharing these!

  6. See this is the right place to have this conversation, yay!

    As I said in my last post which I will re-post here:
    “Personally I find the issue of overpopulation to be an issue of resource, not “having too many people”. The over consumption of first world nations is something to really talk about, I personally believe we have space for 8, 9 even 10 billion people.

    Global Warming, again the Earth is getting warmer before we gave it a name. However humans can aggravate the effects again something that is caused by mainly first world industrial nations.

    And honestly people are going to have children no matter what the conditions are. It is about choice I personally choose to not have children, they have the choice to have children.”

    Before I get into it, what are talking about? Are we talking about queer ethics about adopting/assimilating to heterosexual-relationship models/gender roles, overpopulation, the everything, what?

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