Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sophia Hall made no immediate ruling Thursday after hearing oral arguments from lawyers on both sides of the ongoing state marriage lawsuit, Darby v. Orr, regarding the Illinois Family Institute’s request to intervene in the suit to help uphold the state’s current ban on same-sex marriage.
After statements from the respective lawyers, Hall said she would hold off on ruling on the IFI’s request until two other organizations, the Christian Liberty Council and Grace Gospel Church, have finished submitting their own petitions to intervene so that she can consider all of the potential parties at the same time. She also accepted an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief from 15 churches who support preserving marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“They need to provide briefs before the decision on the Illinois Family Institute, so that the judge can figure out who are the parties,” said Christopher Clark, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal.
The Illinois Family Institute, a Southern Poverty Law Center classified anti-gay hate group, initially filed to intervene in the suit in July to combat the challenge created by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois on behalf of 25 gay and lesbian couples, who say the current state law is unconstitutional. David Smith, IFI’s executive director told Chicago Phoenix at the time that “gay rights and religious liberty cannot co-exist.” Smith also contends that his organization should be allowed to intervene because he said its responsible for creating the ban challenged in the suits.
If granted permission to intervene, IFI would join two downstate county clerks represented in court by the Thomas More Society, a conservative legal action group. Hall said she will rule once all three potential parties have been considered, but that arguments won’t resume until Nov. 7 with her ruling later this year.
The Carol Stream-based organization’s attorney, Bryan Beauman echoed Smith’s argument in court Thursday, saying that it lobbied and financed support for the current law that restricts government recognized marriages as between a man and a woman 16 years and ago should thus have the opportunity to defend its work as it’s challenged. No law exists that prohibits intervention of a group in a suit like this, he said.
Emily Nicklin, an attorney from Kirkland & Ellis LLP representing the Lambda Legal and ACLU couples, fired back against the IFI’s claims, saying that even though the group has spent time and money lobbying for the law, it does not present an adequate claim or defense. Nicklin cited a handful of cases in which groups have been denied the ability to intervene in lawsuits even though they had spent lots of money to support a particularly side. There is plenty of “on-point” law that would keep such an intervention from occurring, she said.
Nicklin also raised the concern that multiple interventions in the case would be redundant, seeing as they have similar arguments to uphold the law, and would ultimately slow the trial’s progress. Both sides and Hall acknowledged — and even joked about — the crowded “scorecard” of lawyers and parties on both sides in the courtroom.
“This would not be a proper case for these people to intervene in,” Nicklin said. “They have no claim other than their passionate views.”
The IFI’s request is causing delays now, she added.
Hall said she is eager to move the trial forward as efficiently as possible and said that a party’s request to intervene could be converted into an amicus brief should it be denied in the coming months. This way, the process wouldn’t have to be reset.
In addition, Hall accepted an amicus brief issued in court on behalf of 15 local churches, including The Moody Church, Rogers Park Church and The Chinese Bible Church of Oak Park. The brief to the court states that they “believe the Bible was inspired by God, contains eternal truths, teaches that homosexuality is sinful and that, therefore, same-sex marriage is not compatible with Christian teaching.”
Before being combined into a single suit, the two lawsuits to overturn the same-sex marriage ban were filed in May by the ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal. High-ranking Illinois lawmakers including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have all vowed not to support the state’s law when the case goes to court. Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, has also said he would do nothing to defend the law.
On Wednesday, a new poll conducted by Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University indicated a 10-point jump in support for marriage equality rights among Illinoisans.