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Our View: Don’t like it? Sue them

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 12:10 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014 4:36 p.m. CST

In this era of Internet outrage, it has never been truer that actions matter far more than words.

The latest example is with the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in Illinois. In the past week, clerks in some of the state’s counties, including Cook, Grundy, and Champaign, have decided to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Their decision came in response to a federal judge’s ruling, which applied only to Cook County, finding that the state’s soon-to-be-lifted ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

The clerks’ offices that are issuing the same-sex licenses are doing so with the blessing of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who says the federal case should persuade them to do so, and Gov. Pat Quinn, who says that the Illinois Department of Public Health will accept the licenses from any county clerk in Illinois.

Many other county clerks, including DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder Doug Johnson, said they will not issue licenses to same-sex couples until June 1, when state law will change to legalize the practice. They have drawn criticism from gay marriage supporters, who wonder, “what are you waiting for?”  

The clerks who refuse to issue the licenses offer numerous reasons for their decision. They say the federal court decision doesn’t apply to their county, they don’t have forms ready, they don’t want the licenses to be challenged in the future.

They say that the law is the law, and no amount of cheerleading by top state officials changes it. In that, they’re correct. 

Johnson says he will not issue licenses to same-sex couples despite advice from DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, who counsels that there would be no legal defense for Johnson’s position if he were sued.

Those taking the “wait until June” stance have been criticized by some online, and its true that some officials might not be motivated to implement a law they don’t agree with. 

As it stands, the law is being applied one way in some parts of Illinois, and another way in others. That seems like fertile ground for a lawsuit. Although we’re not legal scholars, we do know it’s not possible for a ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional in Cook County but just fine to enforce in DeKalb County.  

But will this seeming contradiction be enough to make anyone actually sue their local county clerk for the right to a marriage license right now?

That will be the true measure of just how much this 12-week delay truly matters to people. 

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