Story Summary

Same-sex marriage

The meaning of marriage and the implications of expanding that right to gays and lesbians goes before the nation’s highest court.

Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 10 updates

Illinois will officially legalize gay marriages on November 20th.

Governor Quinn will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law at the University of Illinois Chicago forum.

State lawmakers passed the legislation on Tuesday.

Once the governor signs the measure, county clerks can start issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on June 1st.

The fall veto session is underway in Springfield and supporters of gay marriage made their presence felt at a rally outside the state Capitol Tuesday.

A civil union bill has already passed the Senate. House passage of a civil unions bill this fall is far from certain, but supporters of all kinds, including politicians from all levels made their feelings loudly known.

Republican State Comptroller Judy Barr-Topinka and a who’s-who of high profile Democrats were at the capitol for today’s rally.

It’s just a basic American right that we can marry who we want to marry.  And that’s just a fact of life,” Barr-Topinka said.

“To me, marriage equality is a very simple issue. It is about just that: Fairness, respect, families and love, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

Hundred braved the cold and the rain to make their case in Springfield, the disappointment of the past Spring session fresh in many minds. Gay marriage never even made it to a vote then.  The votes to pass the measure simply weren’t there.  The measure has been stalled ever since and  advocates have been working steadily behind the scenes to put more pressure on.

The position of the state’s chief executive has never been in doubt.  Gov Quin said,  “We believe in love.  We believe in marriage equality. There was a writer, who wrote a letter, almost 2000 years ago. He said ‘love is patient, love is kind, love never fails.’  We need love to sign a marriage equality law and I’ll sign it as quickly as possible!”

It’s been five months since Senate Bill 10 passed a Valentine’s Day vote in the state senate. Several polls since then have shown most voters support it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean its closer to passage.

Same-sex marriage opponents are planning a rally of their own Wednesday.

Both sides claiming victory after Judge Sophia Hall dismisses three of the five claims in a lawsuit brought by same-sex couples.  But those who believe the Illinois ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional say they’ve accomplished their goal to have the lawsuit heard in court.

“We can move forward on our fundamental “right-to-marry” claim.  And the claim that the marriage ban in Illinois discriminates against lesbian and gay couples based on their sexual orientation,” said Camilla Taylor, a lawyer for Lambda Legal.

Lawyers for the Thomas More Society want the entire lawsuit thrown out, but say they hope they’ll prevail before the judge.

“We’re disappointed in that part of her ruling but we’re confident that ultimately that Illinois laws on marriage will be upheld by our courts,” said Paul Linton with the Thomas More Society.

Cook County Clerk, David Orr, who oposes Illinois’ same-sex marriage ban says he sees change coming.

“And I think there’s a good shot, if it happens quickly, that the court will conclude that Illinois law not allowing gay couples to marry is unconstitutional,” Orr said.

The courtroom debate on the matter begins next month.

same sex marriage(CNN) — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that same-sex marriages can resume in California, a move that the Supreme Court paved the way for on Wednesday.

Three judges on the appeals court made it possible for local governments to issue marriage certificates for gay and lesbian couples with a few words: “The stay in the above matter is dissolved effective immediately.”

Very soon after, cheers erupted and camera flashes flickered as Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier obtained a marriage license and wed at San Francisco’s city hall. The two were one of the couples who sued to stop a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage from taking effect.

“This is a profound day for our country, and it’s just the right thing,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris, shortly before presiding over Perry’s and Stier’s wedding ceremony. “Justice is finally being served.”

California’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in May 2008, ruling that the state’s constitution gives “this basic civil right to (marry to) all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

But months later, 52% of voters backed Proposition 8 to once again restrict marriages so that they can only be between a man and a woman.

The measure put gay and lesbian marriages on hold in the state, though lawsuits followed.

State officials declined to stand behind Proposition 8 — and, thus, its prohibition on gay marriage — though private parties did step in and offer to do so.

A federal appeals court later ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, though it still issued a stay on same-sex marriages until the U.S. Supreme Court could weigh in.

That happened in a 5-4 decision Wednesday, when the high court dismissed an appeal of that federal court ruling on jurisdictional grounds. That meant Friday’s news — the resumption of same-sex marriages in the Golden State — was expected, even though no one knew when it would happen.

The Supreme Court ruled that the private parties backing Proposition 8 did not have “standing” to defend the ballot measure. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by fellow conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and more liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” wrote Roberts.

This decision was cheered by gay marriage supporters in California, though it skirted the larger issue of whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional “equal protection” right that should apply to all states.

So, too, did another landmark ruling that same day on United States v. Windsor: It struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and found that the federal government must recognize legal same-sex marriages, though it did not compel them to be legalized in the 37 states where they currently are not.

Still, both decisions were resoundingly cheered by gay rights supporters.

Many who believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman, however, were disappointed. And that held to form on Friday as well, after the 9th Circuit’s ruling allowing same-sex marriages in California.

“This outrageous act tops off a chronic pattern of lawlessness, throughout this case, by judges and politicians hell-bent on thwarting the vote of the people to redefine marriage by any means, even outright corruption,” the Proposition Legal Defense Fund said in a statement. “…If our opponents rejoice in achieving their goal in a dishonorable fashion, they should be ashamed.”

The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave proponents of same-sex marriage two major victories — striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied the same benefits provided to heterosexual spouses to legally married same-sex couples, and allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.

The news ignited responses on both sides of the issue in Chicago

Chicago alderman James Cappleman celebrated today’s ruling at city hall with his partner Richard.

“It’s an incredible decision,” he said. “It’s a decision I never dreamed possible. We want our civil union upgraded to full marriage.”

Mayor Emanuel said today’s rulings are a step forward for civil rights and justice.

“We don’t need to be standing in the way where two individuals love each other, want to build a family,” he said.
Supporters held a march down Halsted tonight in honor of today’s historic rulings.  Hundreds of activists and supporters gathered at the intersection of Halsted and Roscoe to celebrate two big wins for same sex couples.

“It’s an enormous victory for the LGBT community across the country,” said Christopher Clark, an attorney at Lambda Legal.  “The supreme court said today that it is unacceptable under the federal constitution to treat our families as 2nd class citizens”

But some say there is more work to be done.

“We made tremendous progress today but we still have 37 states without marriage equality let alone job protections and other basic civil rights,” said Andy Thayer, Gay Rights Activist.

Activists are hoping today’s Supreme Court rulings will give momentum to Illinois legislators.

By David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court gave a major boost to marriage equality for gays and lesbians Wednesday, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and clearing the way for gay marriages in California.

The decisions by the high court do not require the remaining 37 states to authorize same-sex marriage. But even Justice Antonin Scalia, in dissent, said the court’s opinions will be read by judges across the nation as suggesting that bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional.

The DOMA ruling will bring equal rights to more than 100,000 gays and lesbians who were legally married. The justices by a 5-4 vote said the federal law denying benefits to those couples was unconstitutional because it denied them the equal protection of the laws.

The government cannot say these same-sex “unions will be treated as second-class marriages for purposes of federal law,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The government cannot insist these same-sex marriages are “less worthy” or viewed as a “second-tier marriage,” he said.

And in the California case, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. spoke for the court in a procedural decision that threw out the appeal from the sponsors of Proposition 8, the ballot measure that limited marriage to a man and a woman. The effect of the second decision is to uphold a ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco who ruled gays and lesbians had a constitutional right to marry in California.

As a result of the ruling, California will likely become the 13th state where gay marriage is legal.

[Updated, 8:16 a.m. June 26: The two opinions show the justices were split along ideological lines.

The four liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — joined Kennedy’s opinion to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. They agreed that denying federal recognition and benefits to gay couples violated the Constitution’s promises of liberty and equality.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito dissented, and Chief Justice Roberts dissented in part. He said the court should have dismissed the appeal because the Obama administration did not defend the law.

Roberts refused to state an opinion on the constitutionality of treating gays and lesbians differently. “We may in the future have to resolve challenges to state marriage definitions affecting same-sex couples,” he wrote. “That issue, however, is not before us in this (federal) case.”

Justice Kennedy also stopped short of saying whether he thought state laws banning gay marriage were unconstitutional. He confined his opinion to saying only that the federal government cannot discriminate against legally married same sex couples.]

Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

The wedding photo shows the happy couple poised to kiss, ready to begin an adventure that has now taken them to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For Karane and Jamelle Thomas-Williams, this is a fight for recognition by the federal government of their legal same-sex union, part of a landmark constitutional appeal over same-sex marriage and “equal protection.” Their love has united them, but the larger social issue has split the country for more than four decades.

Rulings in that and a related appeal over state marriage laws are expected from the high court Wednesday.

The Washington, D.C., couple were legally married last October — but not in the eyes of some of their employers or elected leaders.

Karane serves her community as a Metropolitan Police officer. Jamelle serves her country in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. But since she is a federal worker, the couple cannot share the 1,000-plus federal perks enjoyed by married heterosexuals — joint tax returns, loan programs for veterans, and survivor, pension, bankruptcy, family medical leave and health insurance benefits.

Under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed in 1996, marriage is defined for federal purposes as between one man and one woman. That means the estimated 120,000 gay and lesbian couples legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia are still considered — in the eyes of DOMA opponents — the equivalent of girlfriend and boyfriend.

“As a federal employee and as an airman, you get a constant reminder that you’re second class,” Jamelle told CNN. “I had to list Karane as my sister just so that someone would call her in the event that I’m killed or missing in action, or I’m hurt on the job. She can’t be my emergency contact, she can’t receive my remains. As far as my death benefit, I had to list her as ‘other.’”

Adding to the confusion is Karane’s status as a D.C. government employee. She enjoys the benefits of her relationship with Jamelle because her local government in the nation’s capital recognizes same-sex marriage.

“But once we step outside of D.C., it’s a whole other ballgame,” said Karane. In neighboring Virginia, which does not recognize their marriage, the couple says they are viewed as “legal strangers.”

What is federal government’s role in defining marriage?

The larger debate over DOMA’s intent and impact 17 years after passage has driven a wedge between the executive and legislative branches.

At issue is what role the federal government should play when it comes to marriage — something states have traditionally controlled.

“What the court is being asked to decide is whether or not Congress can pass a law that treats same-sex couples, who are already married under the laws of their state, different from opposite-sex couples,” said Amy Howe, a leading appellate attorney and editor of

Four federal district courts and two appeals courts have already struck down the law’s restrictive benefits provision. And in a rare move, the Obama administration also abandoned its defense of congressional authority, saying DOMA is unconstitutional.

That has left House Republicans in the unconventional position of stepping in to argue it should stay in place, at least for now.

Traditionally, the role of defending federal law would fall to the U.S. solicitor general’s office. But President Barack Obama, in an election-year stunner, said last May he now supported same-sex marriage. The president had already ordered Attorney General Eric Holder not to defend DOMA.

That raised the question of whether any party could rightfully step in and defend the law.

Besides the constitutional issue, the justices had specifically ordered opposing sides to argue a supplemental question: whether congressional Republicans — operating officially as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives — have “standing” or legal authority to make the case.

“Let’s not confuse the issue of DOMA and the administration’s decision that it was unconstitutional,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told CNN. “It is not their role to decide what’s constitutional. DOMA was a law that was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Clinton. In our system of government, the administration doesn’t get to decide what’s constitutional — the Supreme Court does. And our financing the lawsuit was to make sure the proper forum was used to make sure that we know what’s constitutional and what isn’t.”

Supporters of traditional marriage agree.

“DOMA’s important because Congress said it’s important,” said Austin Nimocks, senior counsel at the legal ministry Alliance Defending Freedom. “We sent our elected representatives to Washington, D.C., and they chose to say that marriage is one man and one woman for purposes of federal law.”

And many conservatives argue the courts should stay out of the larger constitutional issues and let citizens and the legislatures hash it out. Some activists worry nine unelected justices will issue a sweeping 50-state mandate and redefine marriage as whatever personal bond they now think it is.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, says nothing in the Constitution tells states whether and how they should “evolve” on such an established institution. She said liberty is fundamental right, but that government also has broad discretion to affirm the idea marriage is mainly about ensuring biological children are raised in a stable two-parent family with a mother and father.

Same-sex marriage in the 21st century “is clearly not what anyone understood as marriage at the time of the framing of the Constitution,” she told CNN, saying that should be enough to keep the high court out of the current case.

Lack of protections, benefits if partner deploys

Jamelle and Karane said they hit it off immediately after they met by chance at a downtown club’s Ladies Night, and felt like they had known each other forever. They were together four years before marrying last October.

Karane said she went to Jamelle’s mother first to ask her daughter’s hand in wedlock. Sitting in their comfortable Washington home, they appear blissfully happy being together, but DOMA has put unexpected strains on the marriage because of “little frustrations.” For one thing, they worry what could happen when Jamelle gets sent overseas in a war zone.

“Technically, I am a single person deploying,” she said. “So I don’t have any protection for my family. I could deploy tomorrow and there would be nothing in place to help my family. It would be just me. So that’s definitely scary. Financially, making sure that the responsibility that we have to each other and to our families is taken care of, and it would be like I’m leaving Karane in a lurch.”

Karane added: “It’s like we have to still go above and beyond just to get to where heterosexual couples already are.”

They believe they are burdened by a triple social stigma — as women, black and lesbians.

The couple hopes to have children someday, but that would create further layers of what they say are discriminatory rules. For now this self-described “boring couple” say they look forward to the day their children would be born and raised in a post-DOMA world.

But regardless how the Supreme Court rules, they say they will persevere.

“I should be able to walk with my wife hand in hand and live our life. We shouldn’t have to sit here on the edge of our seats, waiting for a decision,” said Karane. “Are we going to finally be able to just be recognized without any strings attached?… We’re humans, we live in a strange society, and we have to work with what we’ve got.”

CNN’s Joe Johns and Stacey Samuel contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 4.36.23 PMThe Supreme Court is expected to rule on two important gay marriage cases very soon – Defense of Marriage Act: Windsor v. U.S. and California ballot measure (Proposition 8): Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Here’s where same sex marriage laws currently stand:

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on two important gay marriage cases very soon.

Here’s what you need to know about them:

Defense of Marriage Act: Windsor v. U.S.

AT ISSUE: Whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection guarantees in the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause as applied to same-sex couples legally married under the laws of their states.

THE CASES: Edith “Edie” Windsor was forced to assume an estate tax bill much larger than those other married couples would have to pay. Because her partner was a woman, the federal government did not recognize the same-sex marriage legally, even though their home state of New York did. The law known as DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as a union between a man and woman only.

The legal issue is whether the federal government can deny tax, health and pension benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry. Federal appeals courts in New York and Boston struck the benefits provision, with judges in one case saying, “If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress’ will, this statute fails that test.”

THE ARGUMENTS: Federal courts have not yet addressed the federal law’s other key provision: states that do not allow same-sex marriages cannot be forced to recognize such unions performed in other states. Traditionally, marriages in one jurisdiction are considered valid across the country.

THE OUTCOME: There are many options. The simplest solution would be for the court to dismiss the appeal on standing grounds, or who has a right to bring a case before the court. That would leave the lower courts or the other branches to decide who would defend DOMA. But if the court strikes down the benefits provision — the only part of DOMA at issue here — that would create many unanswered questions, especially in those states that currently ban gay marriage.

THE IMPACT: The Obama administration, in a rare move, has refused to defend a federal law in court. That left the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to file the legal appeals to the high court, creating unusual questions about standing.

California ballot measure (Proposition 8): Hollingsworth v. Perry

AT ISSUE: Whether the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of “equal protection” prevents states from defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman.

THE CASE: The “Prop 8″ case, as it has become known, has been down a complicated legal road. California’s Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages were legal in 2008. After the statewide ballot measure banning them passed with 52% of the vote later that year, gay and lesbian marriages were put on hold. Then a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled the measure unconstitutional. In its split decision, the panel found Proposition 8 “works a meaningful harm to gays and lesbians” by denying their right to civil marriage.

THE ARGUMENTS: California is the only state that accepted, then revoked, same-sex marriage as a legal right. The measure’s supporters asked the justices to preserve the will of the voters in this politically charged social issue. Opponents of Prop 8 seek a court-ordered expansion of the “traditional” views of marriage.

THE OUTCOME: With so many options, the simplest one would be to “DIG” it — dismiss the case as “improvidently granted,” meaning the larger constitutional issues would not be settled, at least now. That could throw the case back to the lower courts to sort out the jurisdictional issues and perhaps allow another voter referendum next year on gay marriage. A sweeping ruling on whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental constitutional right seems unlikely.

THE IMPACT: Currently, same-sex marriage is allowed in 10 states and the District of Columbia. Delaware and Minnesota’s recently passed laws take effect this summer. It is estimated about 120,000 legally married same-sex couples live in the United States.

Another seven or so states recognize civil unions or broad domestic partnerships, providing state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples. Obama, who previously opposed same-sex marriage, said he now supports it.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk announced Tuesday that he supports same-sex marriage, becoming the second Republican in the chamber to support it. markkirkcapitolhill

Kirk, 53, recently returned to Congress after suffering a stroke last year. During his recovery, Kirk says he promised himself he would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others.

His statement reads in part, “Same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage.  Our time on this earth is limited; I know that better than most. Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back– government has no place in the middle.”

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio was the first Republican in the U.S. Senate to endorse same-sex marriage. He announced last month that he was swayed on the issue by his son, who told his family he was gay.

Six of the 55 Democratic senators have not endorsed same-sex marriage. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, announced his support earlier on Tuesday.

Kirk holds the Senate seat which President Barack Obama vacated in 2008.

The CNN Wire Service contributed to this report.