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Article updated: 4/1/2013 5:36 PM

Orr opposes motion to dismiss same-sex marriage suit

By Kerry Lester

Cook County Clerk David Orr has filed a motion opposing an effort by fellow county clerks to dismiss a lawsuit to overturn the state's same-sex marriage ban.

"Over the years, we have fought to narrow the gap between discrimination and equal rights, first with the Cook County domestic partnership registry, next with gender-blind civil unions," Orr said in a statement. "But these were never permanent solutions."

The Chicago Democrat said he is looking "forward to issuing marriage licenses without regard to gender."

Orr's motion comes after county clerks from Effingham, Putnam, Crawford, Clay and Tazewell counties were allowed to intervene to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban. Orr, a longtime proponent of gay rights, refused to defend the state law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Orr, along with several other state officials, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, has made statements supporting the lawsuit challenging the law that was filed last summer by 25 Illinois couples through the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

"We have had to deny this equal protection to thousands of committed couples in Cook County alone," Orr said. "My office has issued 2,897 civil union licenses to same-sex couples since June 2011. I think it's fair to say these couples would prefer marriage licenses and the legal rights they afford along with the equality they represent."

Since June 2011, Illinois has allowed same-sex couples to obtain civil unions, which provide many of the same legal rights and benefits of marriage, but not all. While proponents of same-sex marriage like Orr argue that civil unions render homosexual couples as second-class citizens, opponents -- which include the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Arlington Heights-based Church of Christian Liberty -- have long cited a "slippery slope" where the state infringes on religious freedoms.

In the 15-page motion, Orr cites U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who recently made headlines for statements supporting same-sex marriage.

"Plaintiffs have sufficiently stated a cause of action and a remedy, namely the striking of a law that unconstitutionally denies plaintiffs equal protection of the law and discriminates on the bases of sex and sexual orientation," Orr wrote, asking that the motion to dismiss the suit be denied.

Briefs supporting the motion to dismiss the case are due in mid-May, with a status hearing June 6.

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