Illinois residents are to file lawsuits against the state, arguing that the ban on marriages for gay couples is unconstitutional.
The state currently allows civil unions for gay and straight couples which provide the state-level benefits of marriage.
Governor Pat Quinn signed the civil union bill into law last January but confirmed his support for full marriage equality earlier this month.
Though pressure will remain on legislators to pass a law for marriage equality, lawsuits are being filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Lambda Legal to overturn the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
One of the nine couples in ACLU’s lawsuit, police detective Tanya Lazaro told AP: “It’s not the same thing as a marriage. We want our relationship, our love and our commitment we’ve shown for 15 years to be recognized like everybody else’s.
“When you’re growing up, you don’t dream of civil unions.”
John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois said: “We’ve waited long enough. It certainly helps that our president from the great state of Illinois has come forward and been a leader in recognizing freedom of same sex couples to marry.”
US President Barack Obama announced his personal support for marriage equality earlier this month.
In an interview with ABC, he said: “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbours when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
Robert Gilligan, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois told the Chicago Tribune: “Civil unions afford all the benefits of marriage. The justification for passage of civil unions was to get all those legal rights.
“But we had said all along that civil unions weren’t the issue and that same-sex marriage was really the issue. This clearly proves our point, that really what they want is marriage.”