Madigan urges issuing same-sex marriage licenses now
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says her office will side with same-sex couples who sue to get marriage licenses before June 1.
A federal court decision allowed for same-sex marriages to begin in February in Cook County, ahead of the state law set to take effect June 1.
Madigan's decision could lead other counties to begin issuing marriage licenses before that date.
Madigan's letter to Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean says the federal court decision isn't necessarily binding on other counties immediately. But other clerks, she wrote, should find the court decision "persuasive as you evaluate whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."
"In the meantime, same-sex couples who wish to marry in Illinois before June 1 may ask their local clerks to issue the marriage licenses," Madigan wrote. "If such requests are denied, couples may opt to obtain their marriage licenses in Cook County to be married there, or they may file a lawsuit."
Madigan writes that she'd argue on behalf of the couple in such a case.
In Lake County, Clerk Williard R. Helander said that to protect the people seeking licenses she would wait until same-sex marriage is clearly legal.
"If down the road there's a dissolution, one party could argue that it wasn't a valid marriage because we pre-empted the law," she said Tuesday evening. "That could affect child support and visitation rights."
Helander, who is an attorney, also said the confusion could have been avoided if the Cook County lawsuit had been filed as a class action, then the ruling would have applied to the entire state.
It remains to be seen what other suburban county clerks will do or whether local couples will sue to push up the date for getting licenses.
The issue has had a heavy political impact in the suburbs, where former Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles was nearly ousted from that job over his support for same-sex marriage.
And two of the Illinois House lawmakers who voted for the proposal last year -- state Reps. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein and Ron Sandack of Downers Grove -- face serious March 18 primary election challenges.