Nine Illinois couples filed a lawsuit this week, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and New York-based Lambda Legal, to challenge the constitutionality of Illinois law that bars same-sex couples from marrying.
Led by lead plaintiffs Tanya Lazaro, a Chicago Police Department Detective, and her partner Elizabeth Matos, a system analyst for a trading firm in the Loop, the ACLU group filed a complaint against Cook County Clerk David Orr "ask[ing] this Court to perform what is perhaps its most solemn and sacred duty--ensuring that fundamental rights are extended to all Illinoisans," according to the document.
A statement from a spokesperson in Orr's office holds promise for the future of marriage equality in Illinois:
"The time is long past due for the State of Illinois to allow County Clerks to issue marriage licenses to couples who want to make that commitment," the statement said. "I hope this lawsuit clears the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all."
Illinois had legislation pending that would eliminate prohibitive language in Illinois' marriage law, but the proposal didn't make it to a vote before the spring session ended Thursday.
Northwestern University political science professor Andrew Koppelman told the Associated Press that the joint motions filed by the ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal have teeth, since both high-profile groups are selective and rarely fight legal battles they don't think will win.
If he's right, these nine couples in the ACLU suit are about to change Illinois history. Meet some of the people behind the fight:
Tanya and Liz
Since meeting more than fifteen (15) years ago, Tanya and Liz have built a life together, based on what they describe as their "shared values and a common commitment to one another and their family." Tanya knows a lot about commitment and service - after finishing college, she took a job teaching in Chicago Public Schools. After a year in the classroom, she decided she wanted something that was "easier," so she joined the Chicago Police Department, where today she is a Detective in the Violent Crimes Unit. "It is remarkable that Tanya risks her life serving and protecting the people of Chicago, but Illinois does not fully recognize the family we have built together," says Liz.
Kathie and Lynn
Lynn is a registered nurse and works at a federally qualified health center. She met Kathie in October in 2001 at church, where Lynn was attending a support group after losing her long-time partner Linda, after an extended illness. Linda's death was very difficult for Lynn. She lost her job at a local hospital after they denied family leave to care for Linda, and faced challenges to her ability to make decisions about Linda's body and have their family recognized in an obituary after Linda passed away. Worst of all for Lynn, she says, is that "my children were harmed. Linda was very important to my children. But because our relationship was not a marriage, they were treated like they'd suffered no loss at all." "I don't want that to ever happen again."
Randy and Bob
Ross "Randy" Walden and Robert "Bob" Carey live in Springfield, Illinois where Randy works for the Army National Guard and Bob works for a major power company. Randy has a Ph.D. in Health Administration. His work for the military is not a surprise since Randy is a veteran of the United States Army, where he received a number of letters of commendation, a good conduct medal and an overseas service ribbon for his work as a Russian translator. Bob and Randy had their first date at a local Mexican restaurant - a place they still frequent to this day. They soon will celebrate seven years together as a loving, committed couple.
Michelle and Corynne
Like a lot of couples in our busy society, Michelle Mascaro and Corynne Romine met at work - when they were both in a chaplaincy internship at Rush Presbyterian Hospital. Since that time, in early 1991, Corynne and Michelle have created a loving, giving relationship that now incorporates their three children, ages 14, 12 and 11. For Michelle and Corynne, one of the most painful things about not having their relationship honored as a marriage in Illinois is the impact on their children of learning that their parents cannot marry.
Tim and Rick
Like most small town residents, Tim Kee and Rick Wade spend a lot of time engaged in community activities. Having been together for 15 years now, they are well-recognized and regarded in their hometown of Marion. Though they kept their relationship secret when it began, traveling to St. Louis and environs on their first several dates, they no longer try to hide that they are a couple.
Carlos and Richard
On a quiet side street in Evanston, Carlos Briones and Richard Rykhus live with their 7-year-old son Ty'rith (Ty). A couple for eleven years, Richard and Carlos held a commitment ceremony for 120 family and friends in July 2005. "We wanted to tell the world that we are committed to one another," says Carlos. "It was important to make a statement that our love was permanent, lasting." During a visit to Richard's parents a few months later, Carlos and Richard were married in Canada. Now, they make a point of calling one another "husband."
Danielle and Suzie
When they first met, Suzanna Hutton and Danielle Cook could not imagine that they would be spending the rest of their lives together. Teachers in Bloomington, Illinois, Suzie says that she and Danielle were almost "complete opposites." After more than a decade together, now they want to have the dignity of being recognized as married in their home state. They have celebrated their love and relationship with friends and family members through a commitment ceremony. And, in June of 2011, they entered into a civil union.
Kirsten and Tanya
The picture speaks volumes. One look at the photo of Kirsten and Tanya Lyonsford with their two children, Andrea and Zachary, and you know they are a family that belongs together. Tanya and Kirsten have known they were right for one another since almost the first moment that they met, during a September 1999 mandatory diversity training program for AT&T, for whom they worked at the time. During a game called "Diversity Bingo," Tanya and Kirsten both chose the gay/lesbian box. That public revelation led to a date, a strong friendship and then a deeper relationship. In October 2002, Kirsten and Tanya held a commitment ceremony - a Christian wedding ceremony - including family, friends and colleagues.
Ed and Gary
Walk into the home that Ed Hamilton and Gary Magruder have shared (in fact, built together) in Plainfield, and one easily spots their shared passion. The walls of the home are filled with art work that Gary painted. One entire room is given over to a massive compact disc collection of music and a large piano. Books can be found everywhere. The home has an easy, comfortable feeling of things being settled, peaceful. It should. Gary and Ed have been together for more than 48 years - without interruption.