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Cook County state’s attorney: marriage ban unconstitutional

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez says Illinois’ ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, long a supporter of gay marriage, agrees.

Orr’s office is a defendant in two lawsuits – one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and one filed by Lambda Legal – that challenge the marriage ban.

The state offers civil unions to same-sex couples, but the legal groups, on behalf of 25 same-sex couples, argue that withholding marriage licenses from gays violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Illinois Constitution.

On June 14, Alvarez’ office issued a statement: In its response to the lawsuits, it “will admit the salient allegations within the complaint and concede that the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution prohibits discrimination in the issuance of marriage licenses based upon sex or sexual orientation.”

The statement continued, “We are in agreement with the plaintiffs that Illinois laws that prohibit same sex marriage are unconstitutional. We believe the plaintiffs are correct in their assertion that the Illinois Constitution upholds marriage equality for same sex couples just as it does for opposite sex couples.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, last week, filed papers indicating it would not defend the marriage ban in court.

Other top Democrats in the state, including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have endorsed gay marriage.

The announcements from the attorney general and state’s attorney’s office do not mean Illinois’ marriage ban will not be defended in court.

Groups that oppose gay marriage may file to intervene, as has been the case in the fight over California’s anti-gay Proposition 8.

Or lawmakers opposing gay marriage may seek to intervene, as has been the case with the fight over the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. When the president and Justice Department decided not to defend DOMA in court, Republicans in the House of Representatives took up that cause.

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