Downstate County Clerks Move to Defend Gay Marriage Ban


(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Two county clerks from downstate Illinois are asking to intervene in a lawsuit over the state's gay marriage ban.

The Thomas More Society late Friday filed a request on behalf of Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel and Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb, seeking to intervene in the lawsuit filed in Cook County by 25 same-sex couples who were turned away when they tried to get marriage licenses from Cook County Clerk David Orr.

The move to intervene is being spearheaded by the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a conservative non-profit law group. All of this comes just a couple of weeks after Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced she would not defend the state's same-sex marriage ban against the lawsuits, because she, too, thinks it violates the Illinois Constitution. In early June, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also filed court papers indicating she would not defend the state law.

Peter Breen, executive director of The Thomas More Society, a public-interest law firm that opposes gay marriage, said Hirtzel and Webb have an interest in ensuring that the law is applied uniformly across Illinois "because they are the keepers of marriage licenses."

"If the judge lets us in, we believe we have very good arguments to prevail because of the large body of case law that goes our way on it," said Breen, whose firm sought out clients to intervene in the suit. "We had notified clerks that we believe they have ... a strong interest in intervening."

The court filings argue that if the two gay marriage lawsuits continue unopposed, it could create 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 motion states.

Webb, a Democrat, said she's taking no position on gay marriage, but wants to ensure there's statewide uniformity on the issue. She envisions a scenario where one law would apply in Cook County and another in the rest of the state, and wants to know how to respond if someone with a marriage license in another county were to apply for one in hers.

"I just need to know from someone ... what is legal in the state of Illinois, period," Webb said Monday.

Hirtzel, a Republican, was out of the office Monday and not available for comment, his office said.

On Monday, the two groups that are arguing the suits were quick to say they'll forge ahead, regardless of legal interlopers.

"You can't intervene just because you have an ideological objection to the potential outcome, or because you're a public official required to follow the law, and the lawsuit has the potential to change it," said Camilla Taylor, the head lawyer in the case led by Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights group.

In a statement the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which is arguing the other suit, a spokesman said, "[W]e remain focused on winning the freedom to marry for our clients and thousands of other same sex couples in Illinois.

Story source: AP