CHICAGO - A lawsuit filed by 25 same-sex couples that seeks to legalize gay marriage in Illinois can move forward in the courts, a Cook County judge ruled Friday.
Circuit Judge Sophia Hall threw out a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, so the couples will be allowed to argue that state law regarding marriage discriminates based on sexual orientation.
It was a victory for couples like Patrick Bova and Jim Darby of Chicago, who have been together for decades. Bova said they could get married elsewhere, "but we want to get married in Illinois, our home state."
An attorney representing downstate Illinois county clerks defending the same-sex marriage ban said gay couples in Illinois have many of the same rights as heterosexual ones, partly because Illinois allowed civil unions in 2011. The state's ban defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
"The day when the court addresses the merits of this case is going to be a very bad day for the defendants," Lambda Legal attorney Camilla Taylor said.
Attorney Paul Linton, who represents the clerks, said he's confident his clients will prevail when the full case is heard.
A separate fight to legalize same-sex marriage has been ongoing in the state Legislature.
The lawsuit on behalf of the couples was filed last year. But Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to defend the ban, saying she also thought it violated the Illinois Constitution's equal protection clause. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also argued against the ban. Though she wasn't named in the lawsuit, she was able to weigh in because the lawsuit deals with constitutionality of state laws.
That left five clerks to defend the ban.
Illinois legalized civil unions in 2011, but efforts to legalize gay marriage have stalled. Lawmakers adjourned for the summer without taking a vote on a same-sex marriage bill. The sponsor said he didn't have the votes. Lawmakers expect to bring the issue back next month when lawmakers gather in Springfield.