Illinois State Ban on Gay Marriage Being Challenged

ACLU & Lambda Legal Argue Case for Twenty-Five

Illinois Scurrying to Strike Down “Unsconstitutional” Ban

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a federal same-sex marriage ban, Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), states that do not have same-sex marriage are filing suits for federal benefits such as Pennsylvania, New Mexico and New Jersey The American Civil Liberties Union and New York-based gay rights organization Lambda Legal are busy filing suits challenging gay marriage bans. They are also planning to lodge same-sex challenges in North Carolina and Virginia. Other battleground states where federal court challenges are emerging are Nevada, Hawaii, and Michigan, and Illinois as well.

Law Suits In Illinois

Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011. Two separate lawsuits, now consolidated into one, were filed jointly last May by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois on behalf of the couples who were denied marriage licenses. They filed a motion for summary judgment, citing U.S Supreme Court ruling about federal marriage benefits in Cook County Circuit Court on July 10, 2013. On behalf of twenty-five, they lawyers argued that Illinois laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in Illinois is unconstitutional because they are not able to access federal benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Sophia Hall and the Courts

They have requested that Circuit Judge Sophia Hall void the law, a seventeen year-old ban. Hall could rule on the motion as soon as August 6 when oral arguments are scheduled on a defense motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat and Cook County Clerk David Orr, whose office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses, have declined to oppose the lawsuits.  The defense of the ban has been taken up by intervening clerks from counties outside of Chicago’s metropolitan area.

Amicus or “Friends of the Court” Briefs Filed by Religious Groups

Over two hundred religious leaders submitted letters to the court for consideration in a legal challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage pending in Cook County Circuit Court.  The leaders claimed their faith’s doctrine and tradition should not get in the way of allowing gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. In the brief, the leaders urged Judge Sophia Hall to strike down the ban because religious traditions should not be codified in civil law.

The Roman Catholic Church, specifically the Catholic Conference of Illinois,have filed their own amicus briefs in favor of upholding the ban because” the legal recognition of gay and lesbian nuptials will diminish religious liberty.”


N.J. Civil Unions Are Being Challenged


6 Couples Sue To Marry

Once upon a time, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont offered civil unions. Now, only New Jersey continues to recognize civil unions because the other three states have legalized same-sex marriage.

Problem with Civil Unions

Although the protections and benefits of a civil union are greater than that of a domestic partnership, they do not provide all the hundreds of protections automatically received by heterosexual marriages.  Like domestic partnerships, civil union couples must take additional legal steps for themselves and their children on such matters as taxation.

Outside the state in which they are granted, civil unions may not be recognized.  It is a problem if, for example, a couple faces a medical emergency while traveling, one partner may not be permitted to make decisions for the other.  Employers do not have to give health insurance for parties in a civil union.

Lambda Legal

Representing supporters of gay marriage, Lambda Legal, urged a judge to “order that New Jersey allow same-sex couples to marry,” according to the state court motion today in Trenton.  Following the success of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 26 that struck down a U.S. law denying federal benefits to same-sex couples, Lambda Legal has litigated the question for a decade.

For many families, the greatest drawback to civil unions is the “separate and unequal” status they convey.  According to the filed motion, “state-sanctioned marriage provides the key to the full array of federal marital benefits.  The discrimination manifest in relegating same-sex couples to civil union establishes the clearest possible violation of the state constitutional guarantee of equal rights and benefits.”

Six same-sex couples argued in state court on July 3rd, that keeping couples in civil unions instead of allowing them to marry violates several constitutional rights and “simply cannot be justified.” The U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 26th giving same-sex couples federal benefits in states with legalized gay marriage has many couples feeling cheated by their states’ opposition to gay marriage.

Lawyers’ Arguments

Attorneys Lawrence Lustberg of the Gibbons Law firm and Hayley Gorenberg on behalf of the six couples and their children, in a fifty-three page brief, said “by relegating same-sex couples in New Jersey to civil union, the state denies them equal rights and benefits.”  Relying heavily on the logic and word choices of Supreme Court Justice’s Anthony Kennedy, Lustberg and Gorenberg mention the burden of “the indignity and stigma of civil unions.”

The lawyers have asked Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson to grant them the right to marry immediately following the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor on June 26.

On that day, Jacobson agreed to fast-track the case and scheduled arguments for August 15, 2013. The case is Garden State Equality v. Dow.

Precendents Has Been Established

All three branches of state government have said gay couples should receive the same rights and and privileges as heterosexuals, the lawyers argued.

In 2006, New Jersey passed its civil union law, that says gay couples should receive “all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy, but not calling it “marriage.”

Also in 2006, the N.J. Supreme Court ruled in Lewis vs. Harris that gay couples should receive “all the rights and benefits that married heterosexual couples enjoy.”

In 2011, Garden State Equality and several gay couples sued because they felt the civil union law did not provide equal rights for same-sex couples.

In vetoing a same-sex marriage bill in 2012, Governor Chris Christie said he was “adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples.”

Governor Christie’s Position

After the Windsor ruling, Republican Christie, up for reelection, bashed the Supreme Court and said he would still veto the same-sex marriage bill. New Jersey Democrats said they will hold vote to override Christie’s Veto.

Led by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey Democrats held a press conference on July 2, 2013 to sway Christie.  Sweeney urged Republicans to allow a “conscience vote” on the issue given the Supreme Court’s strikedown of DOMA.

Christie supports a referendum in November with voters deciding whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage.  Says Christie, “ I don’t know why the advocates for same-sex marriage and, more importantly, why the Democratic legislators are so afraid to let the people decide.  If what they are saying is true, this’ll be a layup for them.”




Illinois House Adjourns without Gay Marriage Vote


Passed State Senate in February, but not Muster on May 31, 2013

One was surprised today that the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act that passed the State Senate in February and was going to be signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn, died.

Since Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013, when the bill passed the state Senate, supporters of this bill legalizing gay marriage in Illinois, had105 days to obtain the sixty House votes necessary for the vote.  But even sixty votes remained elusive despite support from President Barack Obama who urged its passing last week in Chicago and ex-President Clinton.

Lack of Support For the Bill

So, what was the problem?  Many attribute it to the state House Black Caucus. A twenty-member bloc of African Americans, the Caucus faced stubborn resistance from black ministers.  Several House members were still undecided. Several in the caucus urged Rep. Harris to push the issue into the fall veto session to bring up same-sex marriage for a House vote. (nominating petitions for the 2014 ballot have to be filed after this session).

Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the bill’s sponsor in the House, said he didn’t have enough support and decided not to call the bill for a vote.  “Several of my colleagues have indicated that they would not be willing to cast a vote on this legislation today…and I’ve never been sadder to accept such request. They asked me for time to go back to their districts and reach out to their minds and hearts.”

Those In Favor Gravely Disappointed

Governor Pat Quinn who helped Illinois approve civil unions in 2011 had pledged to sign the measure into law. It had the support of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Quinn repeatedly called on House lawmakers to vote on and approve the bill. He called legalizing gay marriage” a matter of equal rights and benefits for all citizens “ Gov. Quinn said the fight for same-sex marriage in Illinois is not over.”

Others who were dismayed included Lambda Legal whose lawsuit Darby v. Orr filed a year ago will move forward.  “We won’t stop (working) until same-sex couples in Illinois are treated with dignity and respect.” After thanking Senator Heather Stearns for passing this bill in the Senate, Rep. Harris, Rep. Cassidy and Rep. Mell, Lambda criticized that “our community did not at least get the vote Rep. Harris promised on the House floor.”

Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, labelled the failure by the Illinois House a “disgrace.” Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, said “The House of Representatives has neglected the rights of its constituents by failing to vote on marriage equality legislation.  For months, LGBT couples and their children have had their lives put on hold throughout an exhaustive political process that ultimately came up short. Today’s inaction is a prime example of why the U.S. Supreme Court must rule in favor of full marriage equality nationwide to ensure the security and welfare of these and countless other American families aren’t left to chance in future political battles.”


Hawaii Bed & Breakfast Found Exclusive By Judge

Lesbian Couple Not Welcome

A lesbian couple from Southern California were asked to leave the Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Honolulu, Hawaii after requesting an overnight room with one bed in 2007.  Phyllis Young, the B& B owner, turned them away after she asked  Diance Cervelli and Taeko Bufford if they were planning on sleeping in just one bed together.  Young said she was uncomfortable accommodating gay people in her home because of her religious views and claimed that only married couples can book rooms.

The Couple Sues in 2011

Cervelli and Bufford sued Aloha Bed & Breakfast for discrimination.  Said Cervelli, after the ruling, “in my past experiences in Hawaii, people have been so friendly.  It was just hurtful.  It made me feel we weren’t good enough,”  Lambda Legal represented the couple. The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission also joined the lawsuit to protect and enforce the state anti-discrimination law.

The Judge Rules

Hawaiian First Circuit Judge ruled in favor of the lesbian couple and said the expulsion was an act in clear violation of the state’s public accommodations law. This law prohibits business owners from discriminating against customers based on race, color, religion, disability, and sexual orientation.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Peter Renn commented “you can roll up the welcome mat when you see a lesbian or gay couple, just as you can’t refuse to do business with Jewish customers, African-American customers, or disabled customers. Commission Executive Director William Hoshijo said “the court’s decision is based on Hawaii’s strong state civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination.  When visitors or residents are subjected to discrimination, they suffer the sting of indignity, humiliation and outrage, but we are all demeaned and our society diminished by unlawful discrimination.”

Lawyer for Aloha Bed & Breakfast

The attorney representing Aloha Bed and Breakfast, Jim Hochberg, claims his client’s decision is protected under her First Amendment rights, and laws governing businesses have no place in his client’s home.” However, the judge’s ruling doesn’t seem to stop Young from planning on repeating her actions in the future.  She told the Hawaii Human Rights Commission that homosexuality is “detestable” and “defies our land.”