Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gay marriage issue puts Illinois in a “stupid” zone – for the time being

A part of me wonders which predicament is more embarrassing; back when Illinois was holding out against the concept of gay couples being able to marry? Or the current one in which some people are able to marry and others not?

On marriage, three counties down -- 99 to go
That’s our current status. We’re a split state. It is the reason why there have been significant numbers of people from outside Cook County who have come to our wonderful home county to get a marriage license.

THIRTY-ONE SUCH COUPLES from the rest of Illinois (including from Champaign, Dewitt, Kendall, LaSalle and Winnebago counties) made the trip to Chicago to get a license – which means their actual wedding ceremonies will be held here.

Along with couples from Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, along with Colorado, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas.

We’re becoming a magnet for this kind of activity. It seems the situation of last year – where the mayor of Minneapolis could rub it in Chicago’s face that gay couples from here were venturing further north to his city to have their weddings – is over.

Now come June 1, this situation will end. Because that is when the new law permitting such marriages in Illinois will take effect. It’s only in place now in Cook County because somebody sued.

ON THE VERY legitimate grounds that the courts had already permitted some marriages for couples who were not expected to live long enough to see June 1. Why only permit it for gay couples with health issues? It does come across as discriminatory.

So now, gay couples can marry in Chicago, which is causing the rush of other people to come to us. If not for the fact that this will spread statewide this summer, we’d probably have some political people arguing that it ought to be illegal for people to travel to Chicago just to get a marriage license.

It was this very split that caused the Illinois attorney general’s office to try to provide some guidance on the issue – because in at least one county (Macon, which houses Decatur), a state’s attorney advised the clerk to do nothing to issue such licenses now. Better to wait until June 1 when the issue is forced upon them.

Which goes against the practices in Champaign County, where the county clerk is now willing to issue a marriage license to all, and McLean County, where the clerk will start doing so on March 24.

OF COURSE, THOSE counties’ focus is on university towns (University of Illinois and Illinois State University, respectively) with significant numbers of people from other places living there for a stint of their lives. They’d be the obvious candidates to follow the lead.

All of this split is due to the fact that the lawsuit that allowed Cook County to issue such licenses immediately was filed in federal court solely against Cook County. Which is why everyone else is eager to claim the ruling does not apply to them.

The attorney general on Tuesday issued a statement saying that county lines ought not to decide whether someone can get a marriage license without having to make a special trip.

But that they also need to consult with their respective state’s attorneys before deciding how to act in coming weeks.

IT ISN’T ALWAYS a matter of consistency. Take the whole matter concerning “concealed carry” of weapons. Some rural state’s attorneys were so eager to have the concept as quickly as possible that they made it clear they weren’t going to prosecute violations of firearms laws.

Just as I’m sure there are some county prosecutors who will wish to hold out as long as they can on the marriage license issue – somehow believing they will gain some bonus points in the minds of ideologues.

Which is why our “stupid” split will endure for another three months – and in the minds of some for a lot longer than that.

June 1 can’t come soon enough – and not just because I’m disgusted with the Arctic-like temperatures we have experienced this winter. The heart of the baseball season will be up and running by then!


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