Illinois, Indiana Reax To High Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

June 26, 2015
n this Nov. 27, 2013 file photo, Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert hold their Illinois marriage license at their home in Chicago following their marriage by a Cook County judge. They were granted an exception to marry before Illinois' law formally

In this Nov. 27, 2013 file photo, Vernita Gray, left, and Patricia Ewert, hold their Illinois marriage license at their home in Chicago following their marriage by a Cook County judge. They were the first couple to be married after the gay marriage law was signed by the governor. They were granted an exception to marry before Illinois' law formally took effect because Gray was terminally ill with cancer. They married in November 2013 and Gray died the following March, three months before the law went into effect.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

The group Equality Illinois is among those praising Friday's Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.  But the head of the group says gays and lesbians still face discrimination in employment and housing and that struggle will continue.

It was a year ago this month that same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois.  What the high court's decision means, says Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov, is that.

"When Illinois couples travel with their children, with their families, outside of the state, they won't lose their protections just because they crossed the border," he said.

Cherkosov says the ruling is a milestone, but ensuring LBGT individuals get equal rights remains a battle.

For example, Illinois law protects against workplace discrimination, but if a resident who is gay, bisexual or transgender crosses the border to work in Indiana, he or she loses those legal rights.

A woman who was the first to marry her partner under Illinois' gay marriage law says the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriages across the country is a victory her late wife is no doubt celebrating in heaven.
 
Patricia Ewert and her partner, Vernita Gray, were granted an exception to marry before Illinois' law formally took effect because Gray was terminally ill with cancer. They married in November 2013 at their Chicago home. Gray died the following March, three months before the law went into effect.
 
Ewert, 67, said Friday that Gray is doing a "big old happy dance'' in heaven to celebrate the historic ruling.  Ewert said that while activists must remain vigilant, opponents of gay rights are standing on a platform that is "getting shakier and shakier.''

A same-sex married couple from Central Illinois say they’re quietly rejoicing the 5-4 ruling.  Suzie Hutton and wife Danielle Cook live in Farmer City. 

Hutton said she’s celebrating in her heart, saying they’re now ‘on the right side of history.”

“The world just feels a little different to me right now," she said.  "And it feels like a better place to be in.   So just appreciating this day – even though it’s rainy and stormy. What I really think – besides what the supreme court did – just society’s changed, and the overwhelming groundswell behind it.  I’m just appreciative for today.”

Hutton said the two of them have been careful to bring their wills and legal power of attorney documents with them when they travel to states that didn’t recognize their marriage - until Friday.

Hutton and Cook were among the plaintiffs in a suit filed by Lambda Legal seeking the right to marry in Illinois.  It was withdrawn when a bill approving same-sex marriage in the state was signed in 2013. 

The President of the Central Illinois-based Prairie Pride Coalition, Dave Bentlin, said some who disagree will still find ways deny rights to those couples.

He said the court’s decision makes it clear that churches can’t be forced to perform same-sex weddings, but that denying basic services based on religious beliefs violates the law.

“Someone comes into a person’s store to order a cake for a wedding, and the owner could say ‘I’m Catholic, and I disagree with what you’re doing, I’m not going to serve you," he said.  "I mean, if there were that sort of exemption that would be honored and recognized in a law or Supreme Court decision, that would pretty much render any legal finding toothless.”

The leader of Catholics in 28 Central Illinois counties calls U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states a "misfortune.''

Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki said in a statement Friday morning that the government "has no moral authority to change what god has created.''  The Roman Catholic bishop says just because the government legalizes gay marriage "does not make it morally valid.''

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement, also saying he's disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling.

Pence said Friday he believes marriage is the union between one man and one woman and that he was disappointed the Supreme Court failed to recognize the historic role of the states in setting  marriage policy.  But he says his administration will uphold the law and abide by the court ruling.
 
Pence says people are free to disagree with decisions of the Supreme Court, but are not free to disobey them. He says his administration will respect the law and the dignity and worth of every Hoosier and every Hoosier family.

Katie Blair of Freedom Indiana says her group will now be pushing for added protections in the state’s civil rights laws.

"And now we’re not only talking about marriage but now we’ve also been able to change the dialogue to including non-discrimination language in state code," she said.  "That’s what we’re shooting for in 2016.

In Illinois, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are also praising the high court's decision.
 
In a statement, Emanuel called Friday's decision a "victory for America's true values of treating everyone equally under the law.'' Durbin called it  "another step in the march toward equal rights.''

Illinois U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, also backed the court's decision.  "As Americans, we believe in human rights, civil rights and dignity," he said.  "Today's ruling recognizes that our gay friends, family members, and neighbors are deserving of the same right to commit to the one they love.'' 
 
Cook County Clerk David Orr said in a statement that the decision was long overdue.

Story source: WILL