A lawsuit challenging Illinois' same-sex marriage ban can proceed, a judge ruled Friday.
Cook County Circuit Judge Sophia Hall threw out a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Friday after hearing oral arguments last month.
The lawsuit involves 25 couples who filed for marriage licenses in Cook County and were denied.
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"This is a fantastic day for the 25 couples who are plaintiffs in these two lawsuits, and also for lesbian and gay couples and their children around the state," attorney Camilla Taylor said.
James Darby and Patrick Bova have been together for half a century, and on Friday said they believe their one step closer to making their union official here in Illinois.
"This is our home state. We will spend our money here," Bova said. "We also want to make sure Illinois joins all the rest of the state that have done this, to allow people liek us to have the same rights as everybody else."
Downstate clerks were allowed to defend the state's ban after Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez refused to defend it.
Alvarez says the ban violates the state constitution's equal protection clause. Attorney General Lisa Madigan also has argued against the ban, saying the case brings the constitutionality of state laws into question. Cook County Clerk David Orr was also among the elected officials in favor of the decision.
"It is a good day for equality becase a major hurdle is out of the way," Orr said. "Now we get to the merits of the case. I believe we can and should win. Then, hopefully, I can issue marriage licences to the people here, the plaintiffs who should have been given their equality a long time ago."
But the victory was not complete for same-sex proponents. Judge Hall dismissed three of the five counts, a partial victory for those how oppose same-sex marriage.
"We are disappointed in that part of the ruling, but we remain confident that the Illinois laws on marriage will be upheld," attorney Paul Linton said. "In our view, this is a matter for the General Assembly to decide."
Danielle Cook and Suzie Hutton were part of the lawsuit and are hoping the decision will pressure the Legislature to act.
"Either way, we just want the freedom to be able to marry one another," Cook said. "We will take it either way."
Illinois approved civil unions in 2011, but attempts to legalize gay marriage have stalled.