Presiding judge of the Cook County Chancery Division [official webiste], Moshe Jacobius, agreed Thursday to combine two lawsuits that claim the state's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] is unconstitutional. The two suits [JURIST report] were filed at the end of May against Illinois Governor Pat Quinn [official website] and Cook County Clerk David Orr [official website], who issues marriage licenses in the county, claiming that the Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage contravenes the state's constitution. Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez [official profile] filed a response [JURIST report], on behalf of Orr, with the court last week agreeing with the lawsuits and concluding that the equal protection clause of the Illinois constitution prohibits discrimination in the issuing of marriage licenses on the basis of sexual orientation. Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan [official website] similarly filed notice [JURIST report] with the Cook County Circuit Court stating that her office will present arguments in support of the two lawsuits and in opposition of the state's same-sex marriage ban. The plaintiffs 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. The next hearing has not yet been scheduled, and it remains to be determined who will defend against the lawsuits [Chicago Tribune report]. The Thomas More Society [advocacy website] has stated [press release] it will petition the court to have its attorneys defend the law, but that petition has not yet been filed.
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 February, three Illinois legislatures 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 has not been approved. 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] last 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.