Illinois, like many other states, bans same-sex marriage. But officials in Chicago's Cook County are backing away from defending the state law that bans gay and lesbian couples from marrying and are even applauding those who are suing the state.
Two lesbians are suing Cook County Clerk David Orr because he refused to grant them a marriage license under state law. However, Orr is not defending himself and has even offered praise for one of the groups that filed the suit.
"As the defendant I totally agree with the plaintiffs," Orr told reporters on Thursday.
Orr has even gone as far as saying laws that ban gay marriage are similar to past laws that kept blacks and whites from marrying.
"I know there's passion on this issue," he said. "But we're not talking about marriage in the sense of religion. We're talking about what the government does, and the government should not be in the business of discriminating."
Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal filed suits on behalf of gay couples in May and are making the case that the Illinois state constitution guarantees the right of two people of the same sex to marry, although the legislature passed laws banning gay marriage in the mid-90s. The state does, however, allow for civil unions.
What makes the Illinois issue unique is that Anita Alvarez, the Cook County State's attorney, has said that she believes the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, as does the Illinois attorney general's office, which plans to file a brief in support of the ACLU lawsuit.
ACLU spokesman Ed Yohnka said he welcomes the move by Alvarez and the state AG's office. "We're pleased but not surprised. Today we're another step closer to the freedom of our clients to marry."
That means that outside groups such as the Thomas More Society and others who support the ban must step up and defend the statue.
"This makes it clear that lawsuit was an inside job from the beginning, a crass political move to force same-sex marriage on all Illinoisans without providing residents of the other 101 counties an opportunity to be heard," said Peter Breen, president and general counsel of the group, in a statement.
But Breen argued the motions filed by Alvarez on Thursday amounted to an "end run" around the citizens of the state and the legislature which passed the bill with both Democrat and Republican support.
"First, we need to be allowed to intervene into the case and we are preparing our strategy to accomplish this and we believe our position is supported by case law," Breen told The Christian Post.