Judge allows challenges to Illinois gay marriage ban to proceed

Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:57pm EDT
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By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - An Illinois judge on Friday allowed two lawsuits challenging the state's ban on gay marriage to proceed, possibly setting the stage for state courts rather than the legislature to decide whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Illinois.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall ruled that lawsuits brought by same-sex couples have a chance of succeeding with the argument that the state's ban on gay marriage discriminates against them.

The ruling is a boost for Illinois supporters of gay marriage trying to legalize gay nuptials through the courts because efforts through the state legislature fell short.

Thirteen U.S. states have legalized gay marriage. Several states including Iowa and some in New England, have done so through court rulings. Others such as Minnesota approved it through the legislature and last year Maine voted for same sex marriage in a referendum.

Supporters in other states have pursued a course similar to Illinois. On Friday, a New Jersey judge issued an order allowing same-sex marriage statewide in defiance of the state's governor, Chris Christie, who had vetoed a bill to legalize gay nuptials passed by the legislature.

The Illinois state Senate voted on Valentine's Day in February this year to legalize gay marriage but the state House of Representatives never scheduled a vote.

Civil unions for gay and lesbian couples are legal in Illinois but gay activists said this does not go far enough.

Gay marriage supporters plan to hold a rally and concert at the State Capitol on October 22 to pressure the state lawmakers to approve gay nuptials.   Continued...