The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal on Wednesday filed two separate cases challenging the constitutionality of an Illinois law that denies gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Last year, Illinois legalized civil unions for same sex couples, granting them some of the legal rights of married couples, such as for inheritance or hospital visits. But LGBT rights advocates said civil unions — while being a positive step forward — had substantial weaknesses. They argued that separate is not equal.
“Civil unions do not satisfy Illinois’ guarantee of equality because they single out a group of people, treat them differently under the law, and deny them the fundamental right to marry,” said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office based in Chicago. “We are taking this case to court because, in our democracy, it is the job of our courts to uphold the Constitution and protect individual freedom.”
Lambda Legal is representing 16 same sex couples and their children from across the state of Illinois. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing another 9 same sex couples.
“What defines a marriage is love and commitment, our hopes and dreams for a life with the person we most love in all the world,” said John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois’ LGBT Project. “Creating civil unions – a separate, novel and poorly understood status for gay and lesbian couples – does not honor the devotion of our families, nor fully protect them, but instead sends a powerful message that our families are inadequate and undeserving. It is time for Illinois to join the growing list of states that provide same-sex couples with the dignity and respect that can only come through marriage.”
Six states and the District of Columbia allow same sex couples to marry.