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Suits aim to legalize gay marriage in Illinois

TanyLazado Chicago Police detective Liz Matos are raising family would like same-sex marriages become legal reality Illinois. They are photographed

Tanya Lazado, a Chicago Police detective, and Liz Matos are raising a family and would like same-sex marriages to become a legal reality in Illinois. They are photographed with their children, Jaiden Lazoro-Matos, 4 1/2, and newborn Sophia Lazaro-Matos in their northwest side home on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 3, 2012 12:43PM



Is this couple in their Norwood Park brick bungalow, putting their 2½-year-old down for a nap and burping their newborn, inferior to other couples because they are both women?

Under current Illinois law, yes.

They cannot get married. They can apply only for a civil union.

But twin lawsuits that will be filed in Cook County Circuit Court Wednesday by the ACLU and Lambda Legal aim to change all that.

Illinois’ constitution, more than other states’ constitutions, spells out rights that advocates for same-sex couples see as guaranteeing a right for people of any gender to marry, despite laws the Legislature passed in 1996 prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Chicago Police Det. Tanya Lazaro, 36, and her partner Liz Matos, 40, a software analyst, are one of 25 couples who will sue the state, hoping to have a state court declare same-sex marriages legal.

“I always wanted to be the one to be the mom and carry the babies and I unfortunately couldn’t do it, so Tanya gave me the two kids that I always wanted,” Matos said, burping 11-day-old Sophia, who Lazaro bore, fathered by an anonymous donor.

They had just put their older girl, Jaiden, 2, down for a nap.

“And I didn’t want to do it,” Lazaro said of the pregnancies.

“She was banking on me doing it,” Matos said, laughing.

Their families are comfortable with their relationship. And so are their neighbors in Norwood Park where Lazaro grew up and Lazaro’s colleagues on the force. Even Matos’ grandmother in Puerto Rico, who she brought Lazaro to meet, welcomes their relationship — just not state law.

“A civil union to me didn’t represent that [bond], a marriage represents that,” Lazaro said. “We contemplated getting a civil union just for our protection, for our children’s protection financially. But to me it did not represent a marriage and what I thought we were entitled to as citizens of this state and citizens of this country.”

Some plaintiff couples have been joined in civil unions. When their kids go to school and explain that their parents have joined in civil unions and classmates ask what means, the children have to explain that their parents do not have the same rights, said Camilla Taylor, national marriage project director for Lamda Legal, who helped persuade Iowa’s Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage.

The planned lawsuits will make some of the same arguments that worked in Iowa: equal protection under the law and due process.

The ACLU case will argue that the right to privacy in Illinois’ Constitution protects against a ban on gay marriage. California’s constitution had a similar right to privacy cited by that state’s high court in upholding a right to same-sex marriage. That law is under review in federal appellate court.

Lambda also argues that Illinois’ ban on “special legislation” that benefits one group over another prohibits a ban on same-sex marriage.

Matos said she sometimes turns off the television when a political candidate in debate says same-sex marriage threatens traditional marriage.

“By me and her getting married — I just can’t see how that threatens marriage,” Lazaro said as the baby fell asleep on Matos’ shoulder.



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