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Judge orders Cook County clerk to issue marriage licenses to two same-sex couples; attorney general intervenes in class action suit over Illinois' gay marriage law

By Bethany Krajelis | Dec 10, 2013

A federal judge on Monday ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr to issue marriage licenses to two same-sex couples involved in a class action lawsuit over Illinois’ gay marriage law that takes effect in June.

In her two-paragraph order, U.S. District Judge Sharon J. Coleman temporarily restrained Orr from enforcing state statues preventing same-sex couples from getting married in Illinois as applied to two of the four couples named as plaintiffs in the recently-filed suit.

These four couples -- Brenda Lee and Lee Edwards, Patricia Tucker and Ingrid Swenson, Elvie G. Jordan and Challis Luann Gibbs, Ronald Dorfman and Kenneth Y. Ilio – sued Orr Friday in Chicago’s federal court on behalf of themselves, as well as a proposed class and sub-class.

They claim their due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution are being violated by having to wait to wed until the gay marriage law that the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn approved last month takes effect on June 1, 2014.

In their suit, all of the plaintiffs requested a permanent injunction to prevent the enforcement of current statutes banning gay marriages and four of the plaintiffs–Jordan, Gibbs, Dorman and Ilio—sought a temporary restraining order to allow same-sex couples facing life-threatening illness to get married before the law’s effective date.

Shortly after being served with notice of the claims Friday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office filed a motion to intervene, which was granted Monday, in order to address the constitutional challenge to recently-approved amendments to Illinois' Marriage Act.

In its memorandum in support of the plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, Madigan’s office noted, “this case comes before the Court in unusual and compelling circumstances.”

Pointing to the life-threatening illnesses of Gibbs and Dorfman, Madigan’s office claimed that “the risk of irreparable injury to these plaintiffs who wish to marry before June 1, 2014, and the absence of any adequate remedy at law for them, are indisputable.

“[I]n light of the life-threatening medical conditions at issue and the Illinois General Assembly’s historic decision to put same-sex couples on equal footing with opposite-sex couples concerning the institution of marriage, the balance of hardships tips heavily in favor of granting the temporary injunctive relief sought by these plaintiffs and members of the proposed subclass they seek to represent,” Madigan's office argued.

The memo further stated, “And such relief for them, whose situation is unusual and unique, does not disserve the public interest.”

Like the plaintiffs in the suit, Madigan’s office noted in its memo that allowing same-sex couples facing life-threatening conditions to get married before June would provide important benefits, including  social security, inheritance, taxes and medical leave, to the surviving spouse.

In her order, Coleman wrote that she found good cause to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order based on their arguments, as well as the memo in support of their request from Madigan’s office and the arguments she heard on Monday.

“[Orr] is ordered to issue a marriage license to these Plaintiffs upon their application and satisfaction of all legal requirements for a marriage in Cook County except for the requirement that they be of different sexes, and [Orr] is ordered to register their solemnized marriage as is presently required for all other marriages," Coleman's order states.

In addition to granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order, electronic court records show that Coleman took the motion under advisement with respect to the proposed sub-class.  A status hearing and ruling have been set for 10 a.m. on Dec. 16.

A Monday docket entry in the case states, “The parties are to advise the Court if an agreement is reached as to particular language or procedure for implementation of injunctive relief should a [temporary restraining order] be granted to the proposed subclass of plaintiffs.”

The motions from Madigan’s office were submitted by Assistant Attorneys General Richard S. Huszagh, Malini Rao and Christopher Kim.

The plaintiffs are being represented in their class action suit by more than a dozen attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU Inc., and Miller Shakman & Beem LLP, all in Chicago.

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