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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Two churches argue for standing to defend marriage ban
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2012-11-14

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In lawsuits that seek to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage, two Illinois churches made their case Nov. 7 for intervention in lawsuits that seek to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

Attorney Jason Craddock, representing both Grace-Gospel Fellowship of Bensenville and Church of Christian Liberty in Arlington Heights, said that both churches have a greater interest in the lawsuits than the general public and should therefore be allowed to defend the ban.

Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb and Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel are already challenging the lawsuits, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal. The two intervened after Cook County Clerk David Orr, named in the original lawsuits, refused to defend the ban.

Lambda Legal and ACLU attorneys have argued against allowing other interveners in the case. The Illinois Family Institute has also requested intervention.

Craddock argued that overturning the ban on same-sex marriage would force churches that perform marriages to non-members to perform them for gay couples because the Illinois Human Rights Act mandates equal access to public accommodations.

He also said that if the intervening clerks were voted out during the case the ban would again be left undefended.

But confusing his argument was a repeated reference to the Illinois ban as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal ban on same-sex marriage.

"Striking down DOMA would leave these churches in a precarious situation," said Craddock, adding later, "The case is over whether DOMA should be declared unconstitutional or not…we are saying that it should not."

Attorney Jeffrey Sarles, speaking on behalf of the ACLU and Lambda Legal clients, attempted to highlight the distinction between the two, noting that "DOMA" typically refers to the federal law, while the lawsuits challenge Illinois state law.

Sarles argued that the two churches did not have grounds for intervention because they did not have a greater interest in the cases than the general public. He said that many in the state felt opposed to same-sex marriage because of religious beliefs.

"That really doesn't differentiate [the churches] from a large swath of the population of Illinois," Sarles said.

He also contended that multiple interveners would slow the cases and burden the court.

"Now you are really are scaring me," Judge Sophia Hall joked in response.

Hall declined to immediately rule on whether the churches and/or the Illinois Family Institute could intervene.

Asked after the arguments about the difference between DOMA and the case before the court, Craddock replied that DOMA referred to federal law while the lawsuits dealt with state law.

Camilla Taylor, attorney for Lambda Legal, said her organization remains optimistic.

"We're encouraged by how the arguments went," she said.

The Civil Rights Agenda

launches trans project

The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) is launching its newest project focused on the transgender community throughout Illinois.

A press release stated that the "Transgender Rights Project will seek to advance the rights of the transgender and gender-variant communities through policy and legislative advocacy and community education." To achieve that, TCRA is assembling an advisory committee made up of transgender, gender-variant and queer-identified individuals.

"We at The Civil Rights Agenda believe that we are at a tipping point in terms of transgender rights," said TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez in the statement. "It is our belief that we should push the rights of transgender individuals to the forefront of the LGBTQ policy agenda in Illinois."

TCRA is asking individuals interested in joining the committee to email info@jointcra.org .


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