Speaking to dozens of journalists at The Westin Chicago River North hotel downtown, same-sex couples pitched their case for marriage equality in Illinois, after Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, announced that they were filing suits targeted at winning same-sex marriage.
[ See related story at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/ACLU-Lambda-file-for-marriage-in-Illinois/37883.html . ]
Both organizations filed separate simultaneous lawsuit against Cook County Clerk David Orr, May 30, claiming that denying same-sex couples marriage rights violates that state's constitution.
"I'm confident that we will achieve marriage soon, whether it's by litigation or legislation," Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal's national marriage project director, told a packed room.
Six couples of the 25 represented in both lawsuits, told journalists why they felt that civil unions were note enough.
For Kirsten and Tanya Lyonsford of Aurora, marriage equality is about having public recognition of their commitment. For Janean Watkins and LaKeesha Harris of Chicago, it is about no longer needing proof that their family is real. For Jim Darby and Patrick Bova who have been together for 48 years, it's both personal and pragmatic.
"I bought so many toasters for other people's weddings," Darby joked. "I want someone to buy me a toaster."
Darby and Bova want to celebrate their 50th anniversary by getting married in their home state. The two have a civil union, which Darby said has been helpful, but a civil union is not on par with marriage, they said.
Bova said he would like to ask heterosexual couples "would you consider a civil union?" He speculated that most would choose marriage.
Other couples echoed those sentiments. With the one-year anniversary of the start of civil unions two days away, many same-sex couples said that having a civil union is simply not equal to marriage.
But not everyone agrees that the time is right for marriage equality. Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society law firm was on hand distributing press releases against the lawsuits. Breen's is the same firm that represented a group of Catholic charities that unsuccessfully sued the state over foster care contracts they lost for a refusal to place children with same-sex parents last year.
Breen argued that the suit had no legal merit and challenged the state to fight the lawsuit.
"We expect the state's attorney and the attorney general's office to fully defend the constitutionality of state laws," he said in a statement. "We will provide whatever assistance we can to help them in that defense."
One who has spoken in favor of the lawsuits is their intended target; Cook County Clerk David Orr told the Chicago Tribune that the time for marriage equality is long overdue.
Here is a list of couples from both complaints:
Tanya Lazaro and Elizabeth "Liz" Mato, Chicago
Lynn Sprout and Kathie Spegal, Champaign
Ross "Randy" Walden and Robert "Bob" Carey, Springfield
Michelle Mascaro and Corynne Romine
Tim Kee and Rick Wade, Marion
Carlos Briones and Richard Rykhus, Evanston
Suzanna Hutton and Danielle Cook, Bloomington
Kirsten and Tanya Lyonsford, Aurora
Ed Hamilton and Gary Magruder, Plainfield
Jim Darby and Patrick Bova, Chicago
Daphne Scott-Henderson and Ryan Cannon, Bloomington
Michelle Chappell and Michelle Franke, Champaign
Daryl Rizzo and Jaime Garcia, Chicago
Lynne Burnett and Robyne O'Mara, Godfrey
Patricia Garcia and Julie Barton, Evanston
Bert Morton and Lee Korty, Springfield
Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos, Chicago
Robert Hickok and Brian Fletcher, Oak Park
Peggy Burton and Donna O'Crowly, Bloomington
Lakeesha Harris and Janean Watkins, Chicago
Angelica Lopez and Claudia Mercado, Chicago
Tim Rice and Don Julian, Alto Pass
Anne Dickey and Laura Hartman, Rock Island
Brandon and Kevin Bowersox-Johnson, Urbana
Bob Proctor and Hector Martinez, Peoria