Court-appointed lawyers will replace two prominent no-shows in the lawsuit over same-sex marriage.
Two prominent state officials — Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez — have successfully weasled their way out of doing their statutory duty.
But a lawsuit seeking a judicial order mandating same-sex marriage in Illinois will proceed anyway following a decision by a Cook County judge to allow additional defendants into the case and lawyers from the Thomas More Society to defend state law limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
The new defendants in the case are two downstate county clerks — Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel and Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb. They volunteered to participate in the litigation after Alvarez, representing Cook County Clerk David Orr, refused to defend state law because she supports homosexual marriage. Madigan also refused to represent the state of Illinois in the litigation because she, too, supports same-sex marriage.
Illinois currently allows civil unions for same-sex couples, a decision state legislators made to balance the competing interests in the marriage issue. Now same-sex couples, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, are asking the Illinois courts to override the General Assembly's decision and legalize same-sex marriage by judicial order.
Frankly, this is not an issue in which the courts should intervene. This kind of public policy question is best left to the public's elected representatives.
But if it is to be litigated — and anyone can file a lawsuit asking for anything — it has to be legitimately contested.
Madigan and Alvarez, both Chicago Democrats, know that. But for a patently political reason — the fear of alienating party activists who support same-sex marriage — they repudiated the oath they swore to carry out their duties and were prepared to simply concede the case to the plaintiffs.
Cook County Circuit Judge Sophia Hall this week appointed replacement lawyers from the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, to carry out the work that Madigan and Alvarez refused to do.
Had the judge not made the appointment, the possibility existed that the judge simply could have accepted Madigan's and Alvarez's acquiescence and changed state law. That's why their decision not to do their jobs is so obnoxious.
In taking the action they did, both these veteran lawyers demonstrated that they can be persuaded by ambition not to do their jobs.
That they so blithely backed away from a fundamental responsibility of office is an indictment of both their judgment and character.
Some may suggest that their decisions are no big deal. After all, supporters might say, another lawyer will take up the cause, and the lawsuit will proceed in an orderly fashion.
That is not the issue.
Illinois is in a sorry state of affairs. It's bankrupt and mired in corruption and political self-interest, to the point that it's hard to imagine it ever being any different. That serious problem is compounded when two powerful elected officials decide they will carry out some duties of the office and not carry out others.
Their actions are not only a personal disgrace, but another indictment of the way politics is practiced in this state.