Eaton: Top legal officers put their belief before state law
By Fran Eaton Always Right/illinoisreview.typepad.com June 20, 2012 8:00PM
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:10AM
What do Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the makers of Cheerios have in common?
They’ve all stepped forward to promote same-sex marriage.
Last week, General Mills chief executive Ken Powell announced that the company opposes Minnesota’s ballot initiative to add the traditional definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman” to the state’s constitution.
This isn’t the first time the marriage-definition issue has appeared on a statewide ballot. But every time voters are asked, they overwhelmingly support keeping the definition as it has been since America’s beginnings — between one man and one woman.
In every state where civil unions or same-sex marriage is lawful, it’s because state lawmakers or judicial panels made the call, not the voters.
That scenario is coming to Illinois. A lesbian couple has filed suit against Cook County Clerk David Orr for not issuing them a marriage license.
Orr is prohibited by state law from doing so, but he and his legal counsel, Alvarez, agree with the couple who sued. In the Cook County officials’ opinion, there should be no obstacle to a couple of the same sex being granted the state’s permission to marry.
They believe that so strongly that Alvarez said she would side with the plaintiffs in court. With that announcement, she left the people of Cook County and Illinois without defense.
Next in line to defend the state, in most cases, would have been Lisa Madigan. But not this time. Madigan agrees with Alvarez and Orr, opposing the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage.
Two nonprofit public policy groups, the Illinois Family Institute and Thomas More Society, have had to step up to defend Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage because Madigan and Alvarez refused to do their jobs.
Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins says government is justified in defining marriage.
“Men and women come together to form a union that is not merely emotional, but sexual and biological, which means it has a natural biological end. ... Recognizing, regulating and promoting this particular type of union is a legitimate interest of government,” she wrote Tuesday.
If the state is justified in determining what marriage is, it also can determine what marriage is not.
Besides same-sex marriage, Illinois prohibits marriage entered into before one of the parties’ previous marriage is dissolved; between a parent and a child, a brother or sister, whether by half or whole blood or by adoption; between uncles or aunts and nieces or nephews by half or whole blood; and between first cousins within child-bearing years.
It is only the same-sex prohibition to which Madigan, Alvarez and Orr object. And that has apparently justified in their minds setting aside their responsibility to defend Illinois law in court. They contend that upholding the prohibition is an attack on the Illinois Constitution.
In 1996, then-state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald successfully ushered through the General Assembly a Defense of Marriage Act. His effort was to draw a line in the sand, to clarify where Illinois stood on same-sex marriages.
Sixteen years later, that law is endangered — something that few could have imagined when it was adopted.
Why is it so ridiculous to contemplate whether other Illinois marriage prohibitions should be tossed to the wind as well? With only sexual orientation bias as the argument against banning same-sex marriage, why should polygamous relationships be banned by the state? If morality is irrelevant, why should there be any marriage bans?
And while we’re discussing ridiculous theories, can we assume that in the future any other state laws that do not please Lisa Madigan or Anita Alvarez may also be thrown out or ignored, depending on their political agendas or personal beliefs?
There’s more to this same-sex marriage legal debacle that is sure to unfold and make Illinois a national point of ridicule again. Time to pull up a chair, pour a bowl of Cheerios and prepare to blush.
Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog, illinoisreview.com.