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Illinois same-sex couples sue for right to marry

Twenty-five gay and lesbian couples filed [complaint, PDF] two lawsuits on Wednesday against Illinois Governor Pat Quinn [official website] challenging the constitutionality of the state's same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] ban. The lawsuits are supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (ACLUI) and gay rights group Lambda Legal [advocacy websites]. Currently, Illinois law only allows marriage between a man and a woman. The couples argue that the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act [750 ILCS 5 materials], barring same-sex couples from legally marrying, violates equal protection and due process guarantees in the state's constitution. Quinn signed [JURIST report] a bill [SB 1716 materials] that legalized same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive] last year, but the plaintiffs claim that did not go far enough. In February, three Illinois legislators introduced [AP report] the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act [HB 5170 materials], which would have provided same-sex marriage rights for same-sex couples, but it is still pending and a vote is not expected before the legislative session ends this week.

Illinois was the seventh US jurisdiction to legalize same-sex civil unions, but it has not yet joined the nine jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage. In March, Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, joining Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports]. On the other hand, North Carolina voters approved [JURIST report] earlier this month a constitutional amendment [Amendment 1, PDF] to ban same-sex marriage. In February, the Wyoming Senate approved [JURIST report] a bill that would deny recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions performed in other jurisdictions. New Jersey is still struggling to pass the same-sex marriage bill because Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the bill [JURIST report] and called for a voter referendum to decide the issue, rather than the state legislature.

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