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Same-Sex Marriage License Statement from Cook County Clerk David Orr

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Special to

Although I strongly believe that committed same-sex couples should be afforded the same benefits, rights and responsibilities - including civil marriage - as heterosexual couples, my office cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples at this time.

After careful discussion with same-sex marriage advocates and like-minded elected officials, we have agreed that without widespread political and legal support, we need to explore alternative ways to secure these rights.

State law prohibits the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Illinois and can only be changed by the state legislature or the courts. My attorney and other legal advisors agree that the law is unambiguous. However, it is my strong belief that this law is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Issuing licenses without legal standing or a broad political consensus would threaten a political backlash that could jeopardize the rights we've fought so hard to gain, including healthcare benefits, adoption and government recognized domestic partnerships. In addition, it would place others in jeopardy, especially marriage license recipients and also ministers and other clergy, who would be committing felonies if they took part in marriage ceremonies without valid licenses.

President Bush has already launched an offensive to deny basic civil rights and equal protection under the law with a constitutional amendment - the first ever to take away rights, rather than extend them. We must not allow this act of intolerance to succeed and should focus our efforts on defeating it.

I am currently working with legal experts, community leaders, and our allies in City of Chicago and Cook County government to build support in order to make civil marriage rights for gays and lesbians a reality in Illinois.

David Orr

Cook County Clerk

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