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Religious Tolerance logo

Civil unions and same-sex marriages (SSM) in Illinois.

2012: Civil unions inadequate. Two lawsuits
to legalize same- sex marriages launched.

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2012-MAY: Assessment of civil unions one year later:

On 2011-JUN-01, civil unions became available for loving, committed same-sex couples. They delivered some of the benefits and protections that are automatically granted to opposite-sex married couples. But the general opinion among the LGBT community one year later is that they have failed. Lambda Legal offered the following reasons of "how civil unions have failed." 1

  • Civil Unions are not understood by the public: Everybody knows what marriage means: two persons committing to support each other for the rest of their lives. Churches have ceremonies, rituals and sacraments for marriage. An entire marriage industry has sprung up to organize weddings, bake wedding cakes, supply wedding dresses, photograph weddings, etc. Children often fantasy or dream about their marriage ceremony. But few dream about becoming "civil unionized." There is no real civil union industry. Few faith groups provide rituals. Couples have to explain to others what civil unions are, at work, school, emergency rooms, etc. Civil unions may grant the couple many rights, benefits, and protections. But they don't carry with them the status of marriage.

  • Marriage is marriage, but civil unions vary by state: If a couple is married, they automatically receive the full set of benefits, protections, and recognitions from the state. But anything less that marriage -- live civil unions or domestic partnerships -- vary from state to state. In some states, couples in civil unions and other forms of second-class "marriage-lite" arrangements receive the full set of state grants; in other states they receive only a small subset. When couples visit other states, their status is largely unknown.

  • A separate but unequal status is an invitation to discriminate: Couples in civil unions cannot legitimately define themselves as married. To many couples, this is the main benefit of being marriage. But being treated as a second-class couple unworthy of being married invites others to discriminate against them on the job, by the police, in emergency rooms, etc.

  • Civil unions break the promise of"justice and liberty for all: The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the same rights and privileges for all. But civil unions are inferior to marriage and were created as a second-class arrangement mainly because some people were not willing to provide loving, committed same-sex couples with the full set of rights of marriage. Lambda Legal have said that the supreme courts --:

    "The highest courts in four states"California, Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts -- have said that maintaining a separate legal status like civil unions for a minority, rather than treating everyone the same, is a violation of the constitutional promises of equality."

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2012-MAY-30: SSM lawsuits launched:

Civil unions were created by the Illinois Legislature and signed into law during 2011. Early in 2012, a bill was introduced into the Illinois House to legalize same-sex marriage. It did not receive a great deal of support from the legislators, perhaps because they didn't want to enter into another battle on LGBT rights so soon.

However, on 2012-MAY-10, one day after President Obama endorsed the principle of same-sex marriage (SSM), Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) announced his support for SSM and promised to try to push a bill through the legislature. Spokesperson Mica Matsoff said:

"Gov. Quinn joins with President Obama in supporting marriage equality and looks forward to working on this issue in the future with the General Assembly." 2

After the bill was pulled midway through the session because of lack of support, a civil rights agency and a pro-LGBT agency decided to try to legalize SSMs via the state courts. 3 ACLU attorney John Knight said:

"We always thought this was something that had to happen. We think it's time to try in the courts, and we're optimistic about our chances." 3

Attorney Camilla Taylor from Lambda Legal attorney played a major role earlier in a similar lawsuit in Iowa. She said:

"We feel like we're at a tipping point. You reach a point where you can no longer tell these families that they should hold off. You lack the justification when we reach a national moment, when it's clear that our time is now." 3

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Two lawsuits were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on MAY-30:

  • One lawsuit is Darby v. Orr and was filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of 16 same-sex couples. One couple is from Chicago -- Patrick Bova and Jim Darby. They have been together for 48 years. They hope to marry by their 50th anniversary. Darby joked:

    "I have bought so many toasters for so many weddings. I want someone to buy me a toaster." 4

    Another couple are Janean Watkins and Lakeesha Harris. In 2011, they were the first couple in line last year to get a civil union license from Cook County when they became available. They have been a couple for 12 years and have six children. Janean Watkins said:

    "We have the kids, it’s important for them to see that the relationship we’re in is validated by the state." 5

  • The other lawsuit is Lazario v. Orr and was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 9 other same-sex couples. The lead plaintiffs are Tanya Lazaro, a Chicago police detective, and Elizabeth Matos, a systems analyst. They have been together for 15 years and are raising two children. They are not interested in obtaining a civil union. 5 As Tanya Lazario said:

    “It’s not the same thing as a marriage. We want our relationship, our love and our commitment we’ve shown for 15 years to be recognized like everybody else’s. ... When you’re growing up, you don’t dream of civil unions." 5

    She also said:

    "Our relationship is not about some legal benefits and protections, but about love for one another. We love each other; we are committed to one another. Anything short of marriage does not recognize that love and commitment." 6

    Some of the other plaintiff couples are:

    • Lynn Sprout and Katherine “Kathie Spegal have grandchildren ages to 22-years-old to 6-years-old and expects another shortly.

    • Ross “Randy Walden and Robert “Bob Carey, have been a couple for seven years. Randy's former partner died of cancer. The hospital denied Randy access to his partner's room. He almost missed being with him when he died.

    • Michelle Mascaro and Corynne Romine have been together over two decades and have three adopted children.

    • Tim Kee and Rick Wade have been together over 15 years.

    • Carlos Briones and Richard Rykhus are parents of their seven-year-old son.

    • Kirsten and Tanya Lyonsford of Aurora met at work 13 years ago and are raising two young children; and

    • Edwin “Ed Hamilton and Gary Magruder, retired teachers, have been together for more than 48 years. 6

    John Knight, director of the ACLU of Illinois’ LGBT Project said:

    "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. 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." 6

  • John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois said:

    "It's time for Illinois to recognize the love and commitment of these couples. We've waited long enough." 1

The two groups decided to launch separate lawsuits because they have somewhat different missions. In addition, their lawsuits' legal reasoning were not identical.

Both groups are seeking to overturn the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. This is a state Defense of Marriage (DOMA) type law that restricts marriage to the union of one woman and one man. They also hope to replace the 2011 civil unions law with access to full marriage for same-sex couples.

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The attempt to legalize same-sex marriage
via the state courts continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "How civil unions have failed," Lambda Legal, 2012, at:
  2. "ILLINOIS Governor, Pat Quinn announces his support for same-sex marriage!, MacRomors, 2012-MAY-11, at:
  3. Rex Huppke, "Lawsuits challenge Illinois gay marriage ban," Chicago Tribune, 2012-MAY-30, at:
  4. Sophia Tareen, "Illinois Gay Marriage: Lawsuits Filed By ACLU, Lambda Legal Aims For Marriage Equality," Huffington Post, 2012-MAY-30, at:
  5. Sophia Tareen, "ACLU lawsuit challenges Ill. gay marriage ban," Washington Times, 2012-MAY-30, at:
  6. "Gay and Lesbian Couples Seek Freedom to Marry in Illinois," American Civil Liberties Union, 2012-MAY-30, at:

Copyright 2012 & 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2012-NOV-02
Latest update: 2013-FEB-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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