Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 14, 2013

Court denies delay in same-sex marriage suit

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel said Wednesday he is disappointed a Cook County court denied a motion that would have delayed the cases of same-sex couples challenging the state's ban against same-sex marriage.

Hirtzel and the Tazewell County clerk joined the Thomas More Society in its motion filed last summer that sought to delay any action in the case pending U.S. Supreme Court decisions in other same-sex marriage cases. Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed the original suit on behalf of 25 same-sex couples on May 30, 2012.

"I'm just a little disappointed," Hirtzel said. "The idea was to see what the Supreme Court decision would be."

Hirtzel said he doesn't believe it's appropriate for the court system to decide an issue better left to the people or their legislative representatives.

"My stand is that this shouldn't be done in court, but through a vote of the people or legislature," he said.

Since Hirtzel and the Tazewell clerk joined the case, three other Illinois county clerks have joined the case as well.

A Lambda Legal representative said in a news release that the Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division rightly found that it was inappropriate to delay a case in one court system based on actions in another system.

"The cases up for review in the United States Supreme Court involve different parties and a different body of law," said Camilla Taylor, National Marriage Project director. "Illinois courts do not permit a defendant to stall a case based on speculation about what may happen in somebody else's lawsuit.

"We are pleased that our case will move forward and that loving, committed Illinois couples will have the chance to get to the heart of this case and explain to the Court why marriage is so important to their families," Taylor added.

But Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that usually advocates the conservative line on social issues, said it's just a matter of time before the suit is dismissed.

"We fully expect the motion to dismiss will be granted and we will prevail," Brejcha said.

Judge Sophia Hall ordered plaintiffs to prepare briefs in the case by March 29. The five clerks have until May 16 to reply to the plaintiff's briefs.

Brejcha said it's the plaintiffs who have been stalling the case.

"We are pleased the court ordered briefing on our motion to dismiss after eight months of delay by the plaintiffs," he said.

A status hearing on the motion will be held at 9:30 a.m. June 6 in a Cook County courtroom.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.