BREAKING NEWS: EQUALITY ILLINOIS CHALLENGES DEFENDERS OF MARRIAGE INEQUALITY

Equality Illinois said Monday the petition on behalf of two county clerks seeking to defend the state’s discriminatory marriage law offers the exact reason-legal chaos-why statewide recognition of marriage equality is required.

The petition, filed late Friday by the right-wing, ultraconservative activist group Thomas More Society on behalf of the county clerks of Effingham and Tazewell counties seeks the right to defend the current law banning same-sex marriages. Two suits have been filed in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional.

The motion says the suits could result in two sets of marriage laws in the state – one for Cook County, and one for the rest of Illinois. “The potential legal chaos and uncertainty from such a state of affairs is obvious and intolerable,” the intervenors’ motion states.

“Legal chaos and uncertainty is exactly the situation that exists now under the separate status of marriages for opposite-sex couples and civil unions for same-sex couples, which has resulted in blatant discrimination,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest LGBT advocacy organization. “The best way to remedy the legal chaos and uncertainty feared by the two county clerks represented by the Thomas More Society is to end marriage inequality.”

Under current state law, civil unions are supposed to be equal to marriages. An Equality Illinois study released on the one-year anniversary of civil unions in Illinois on June 1, 2012, however, found clear and consistent patterns where civil union couples were treated unequally, denied rights or protections, or stigmatized. Importantly, the very fact that same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships were not allowed to marry invited discrimination by stigmatization by public and private agents.

“As we feared, civil unions did not turn out to be equal to civil marriages, and separate does not make equal,” Cherkasov said. “Sadly, our research also found that in area after area, whether tax law, health insurance, hospitalization, family issues, personal finance and actions by state and local officials, couples in civil unions were either treated unequally or denied their rights, or singled out for discrimination.”

It appears that an overwhelming majority of the 102 county clerks in Illinois understand that. Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is the subject of the original suits, agrees that the current law is unconstitutional and refuses to defend it.

“Despite a statewide campaign by homophobic groups trying to convince county clerks to defend the current marriage law, only two of the 102 clerks stood up for perpetuating discrimination,” said Randy Hannig, Director of Public Policy for Equality Illinois.

Meanwhile, it is also important that we look at the organization representing the two county clerks, the Thomas More Society, which regularly challenges the traditional separation of church and state on subjects that do not threaten the sanctity of religious freedom.

The Thomas More Society is a well-known right-wing law association that closets its negative and narrow view of the beautiful diversity of American society under the cloak of seemingly legitimate legal arguments and distressed pleas for religious fairness. In reality, the society associates itself with individuals and groups who appeal to the basest instincts in the American dialogue.

For example, when Peoria Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky recently compared President Barack Obama to the two most notorious dictators and murderers of the 20th Century Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, instead of condemning such outrageous commentary, The Thomas More Society launched a campaign and petition drive to support Jenky.

“Nowhere in the United States where marriage equality exists is a religious institution or clergy member required to host or perform a same-sex marriage, nor would that happen in Illinois,” Cherkasov said.

“There is no harm to any individual, family or government interest in jurisdictions where marriage equality exists, and for The Thomas More Society to suggest otherwise is a reflection of its unwarranted desire to illegally impose its religious values on all of us.”

At the same time, the Thomas More petition is a call-to-arms for supporters of marriage equality, a reminder that the filing of the original lawsuits and their support by forward-thinking public officials does not guarantee victory during a long and complex legal process.

“We need to maintain pressure on multiple levels to ultimately win marriage equality. We cannot let up on any front,” said Hannig. “We urge legislators to pass a marriage equality law in Illinois. We support the couples in the lawsuits who seek to have their loving, committed relationships sealed with marriage vows. And we continue to press in Congress and the courts to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits federal recognition of marriage equality.”

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