In the first oral arguments heard in two lawsuits that seek marriage equality in Illinois, an anti-gay organization made the case for its participation in the case.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall heard arguments from the Illinois Family Institute (IFI) Sept. 27. The group is seeking to intervene in the case, which seeks to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuits, oppose that intervention, noting that two downstate clerks are already defending the ban.
Hall declined to immediately rule on the proposed intervention.
IFI would be the second group permitted to intervene in the case, after 25 same-sex couples sued Cook County Clerk David Orr for the right to marry. Orr and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez have refused to fight the lawsuits, calling the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Similarly positioned is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has filed in support of the lawsuits. As a result, the marriage ban was left undefended.
Two downstate county clerks have since been granted intervention to fight the lawsuit. They are represented by the Thomas More Society, the conservative law firm that represented Catholic Charities last year in its fight to maintain foster-care contracts while turning away same-sex foster parents.
IFI attorney Bryan Beauman argued that his group also has an interest in the case because the organization invested substantial money and energy into fighting same-sex marriage in Illinois. He said the organization has a a greater interest in the case than that of the general public.
But Emily Nicklin, representing both the Lambda Legal and ACLU couples, countered that IFI's participation in the case would add little and slow the case.
"This would not be a proper case for these people to intervene in," Nicklin told the court, arguing that IFI would not be directly hurt by the allowance of same-sex marriage in the state and that their position would already be articulated by the intervening clerks.
Nicklin and other attorneys representing the plaintiff couples expressed a growing anxiousness to get the case moving as it has been stalled by the multiple interventions. In addition to the clerks and IFI, two Illinois churchesthe Church of Christian Liberty and Grace Gospel Fellowshipwill file a petition to intervene.
Those will set the case back another month.
John Knight, an attorney with the ACLU, said that allowing IFI and the churches intervention could open a flood gate of other parties claiming interest in the case. And until the parties in the lawsuits are established, he said, the case cannot continue.
"Figuring out who the parties are is a really crucial issue for us," he said.
Also awaiting argument is a motion from Thomas More Society that seeks to dismiss the lawsuits. That motion will not be argued until the parties in the lawsuit are finalized.
But Knight said that attorneys for the couples remain patient, trying not to rush Hall.
Hall declined to make a decision about IFI's participation in the case until the two churches make their arguments for intervention. She set that date for Wed., Nov. 7, at 10:30 a.m.