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Law Firm On Gay Marriage For Illinois: ‘It’s Just Time’

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The gay rights law firm Lambda Legal has produced a video with the message that “it’s just time” for full marriage equality in Illinois, after lawsuits were filed this week seeking to secure marriage rights for same sex couples.

Meanwhile in Boston, an appeals court has struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On Wednesday, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed separate lawsuits, claiming that the failure by the Cook County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Illinois.

After filing the lawsuits, Lambda Legal has also released a public service video for the campaign, “ILove Marriage in Illinois.” In the video, several Illinois couples – some of them hailing from far away from Chicago – make the point that “it’s just time.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports

The couples say they have been together for nine years, 29 years, almost 50 years. But they say their relationships have never been treated as legitimate.

“When I was in the hospital giving birth to our son, we would try to in with my daughters, and the clerk was like, ‘No, kids can’t go in unless they’re related,” said Daphne Scott-Henderson of Bloomington, who has been with her partner, Ryan Cannon, for six years and is raising three children with her.

Theresa Volpe of the Rogers Park neighborhood, who has been with her partner, Mercedes Santos, for 20 years, say she was denied entry into a hospital room when their son, Jaidon, 4, was near death from kidney failure, unless she identified herself as his “stepmother” because Santos was already in the room.

“Jamie was brought into the ICU and we had to have passes. To get in, I had to tell the woman, ‘I’m here for my son,’ and she said, ‘It’s for parents, you know, a mom and a dad,’” Volpe said.

Bert Morton and Lee Korty of Springfield have been together for 25 years. But Morton says he couldn’t be by Korty’s bedside when Korty had a heart attack.

“(The hospital staff) asked me what my marital status was, and I had to say, ‘single,’ after 25 years of being together,” Morton said.

And Darryl Rizzo, also of Rogers Park, said when his partner of 11 years, Jamie Garcia, needed an emergency appendectomy at 3 a.m., they had to wait for Garcia’s brother to arrive because the hospital did not recognize Rizzo as family.

“To not be able to be by his bedside to make decisions for him, I felt powerless,” Rizzo said.

Currently, the State of Illinois still bans same-sex marriage by statute. But last year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples.

But the couples in the video say a civil union is not enough, because “we’re worth more.”

The lawsuits claim that the failure by the Cook County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Illinois Constitution.

The county Clerk’s office has maintained for several years that the law prohibits such marriage licenses, but Clerk David Orr issued a statement Tuesday saying he supports the objective of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to one man and one woman, discriminates against married same-sex couples by refusing federal benefits for them, CBS News reports.

The law was passed in 1996, when there were not yet any states that permitted same-sex marriage. But it appeared that Hawaii was poised to legalize gay marriage at the time.

The appeals court did not rule on the provision of the law saying states without same sex marriage do not have to recognize marriages or civil unions performed in others states.

Last month, state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois, but later pulled the bill, saying the votes were not there.

The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, H.B. 5170, would have declared that “all laws of this State applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children; parties to a marriage and their children, regardless of whether the marriage is of a same-sex or different-sex couple, have the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law.”

Harris is the chairman of the House Human Services Committee, and has the authority to decide when the bill will come to the full House for a vote. He told the Phoenix last month that he would do so “when I think the time is strategically right.”

Currently, the State of Illinois still bans same-sex marriage by statute. But last year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples.

Earlier this month, Quinn said he was ready to work toward legalizing gay marriage, shortly after President Barack Obama said he favors same-sex marriages.

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