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Illinois legislators file brief opposing marriage equality, ongoing lawsuit

By Tony Merevick| Chicago Phoenix
Monday, September 3, 2012
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A bipartisan group of 11 Illinois legislators filed an amicus brief last week in support of a motion to dismiss the landmark lawsuit by Lambda Legal and the ACLU challenging the state’s marriage ban.

Led by Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Westmont) and Bill Haine (D-Alton), the lawmakers contend that allowing the court to rule on the issue would create a super-legislature, override the democratic process and infringe on religious liberties and should therefore be dismissed as asked by the Thomas More Society, which filed the motion and intervened in the suit in July.

“We welcome the bipartisan support for Illinois’ marriage law offered by this respected group of legislators,” said Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel for the Thomas More Society in a statement. “They rightly point out that under our constitutional system, the issue of how the government treats domestic relationships is reserved to the General Assembly.”

The Catholic Conference of Illinois, a religious public policy group, was granted permission to file an amicus brief in support of the motion to dismiss the lawsuit in late July.

“It’s a little unusual to have amici in a trial like this, but with a case like this it’s not,” said Breen of July’s ruling. “You typically do that as an appeal. Here, because of the importance of the case, they have asked to appear and have their views heard on the trial.”

Specifically, the group of lawmakers asserts that the court  would become a super-legislature, wielding power above the state legislature and “nullifying laws it does not like,” according to a statement.

“That is not our proper role in a democratic society,” the statement read and continued that such a ruling would “dramatically interfere with the constitutional guarantee of separation of powers by which the general assembly is empowered to make public policy…”

In addition to constitutional claims, the legislators say their sociological arguments should be considered. They claim that families with biological opposite-sex parents are better for children and that a ruling in favor of marriage equality would create hostility towards the state’s “religious minorities” such as the Catholic Conference. The same argument was made in a request to intervene in the suit filed by the Illinois Family Institute, a Southern Poverty Law Center classified anti-gay hate group July 13.

“Gay rights and religious liberty cannot co-exist,” said David Smith, IFI’s executive director of the July filing.

The 11-member group behind last week’s amicus filing including Dillard, Haines, Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), Sen. Darrin LaHood (R-Peoria), Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), Rep. David Reis (R-Olney), Rep. Joseph Lyons (D-Chicago), Rep. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville), Rep. Richard Morthland (R-Moline), Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Westmont) and Rep. Paul Evans (R-Highland). They are represented by retired Cook County Chancery Court Judge Robert V. Boharic, according to the statement.

Both Evans and Reis support a resolution introduced in the General Assembly in mid-July that would “reaffirm” the state’s marriage law as between a man and a woman and specifically targets the ACLU/Lambda Legal lawsuit challenging the ban. Illinois approved the law banning same-sex marriage in 1986.

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