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Marriage Equality Moves Forward in IL, NJ, PA

Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed papers asking the court for a swift end to the harm and indignity couples face without the freedom to marry — which now includes the inability to access many federal marriage benefits.

The motion for summary judgment was filed in the Cook County District Court.

“The end of DOMA creates a new urgency and same-sex couples in Illinois can’t wait any longer,” said Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. “One of our plaintiff couples is approaching a 50th anniversary — how much longer should they have to wait? Another is expecting a third child. Not only are these families denied dignity and respect from their state, but now they are also denied important federal marriage benefits such as access to family and medical leave if one spouse is ill, and spousal veteran’s benefits.”

“Illinois’ denial of marriage to lesbian and gay couples stigmatizes thousands of loving families and their children as unworthy,” said John Knight, Director of the LGBT and AIDS Project for the ACLU of Illinois. “But the end of DOMA amplifies the injury to these families who now are denied many crucial federal protections now available in thirteen states and the District of Columbia.  It’s time for Illinois to join this growing list of states.”

Wednesday’s motion, in addition to including testimony from all 25 couples in the lawsuit, has testimony from a range of national and international experts who agree that the time to grant the freedom to marry for same-sex couples is now. The list includes authors, activists, educators, and researchers involved in the history of marriage and LGBT civil rights.

The motion was supported by friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of numerous organizations including the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund (MALDEF), The Chicago Bar Association, Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, and The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law by attorneys Paul T. Fox, Gregory E. Ostfeld and James P. Madigan of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and on behalf of faith leaders across the state of Illinois, by attorneys Alexandra K. Block, Edward W. Feldman, and Nury A. Siekkinen of Miller Shakman & Beem, LLP, in support of marriage for same-sex couples.

“As a veteran, marriage would help resolve many of the questions I still have about my benefits and protections for Patrick,” said Jim Darby, lead plaintiff in Darby v. Orr. “I’ve been together with Patrick almost 50 years now – decades of joy and commitment surely merit the protections of marriage.”  Suzie Hutton, one of the Lazaro v. Orr plaintiffs from Bloomington, stated that “being denied federal marriage protections now that DOMA is gone is an all-too-real reminder of the second-class status of our civil union. Only marriage can change that.”

Read the court filings here, here, here, and here.

Learn more about Lambda Legal’s ILove Marriage in Illnois campaign here.

Lambda Legal has also filed summary judgment papers in its New Jersey case seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples who, like couples in Illinois, are relegated to the second class status of civil unions and prevented from accessing many critical federal marriage benefits. The ACLU Tuesday filed a case seeking the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania.

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The Seattle Lesbian
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