(CN) – Prosecutors in Illinois have reportedly refused to defend a 16-year-old state ban on gay marriage against the lawsuit brought by 25 same-sex couples who want marriage licenses.
State Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez say the ban violates the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.
“I took an oath when I was sworn in to defend the constitution of the state of Illinois and I believe that’s what I’m doing,” Alvarez told the Associated Press. “I’m not going to defend something I believe is in violation of the constitution.”
Illinois legalized same-sex civil unions last year, but marriage remains illegal.
In May, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal sued Cook County Clerk David Orr on behalf of 25 same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses and were denied.
The two complaints said the law defining marriage as between a man and a woman violates the due-process and equal-protection clauses of the Illinois Constitution.
Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office denied the marriage license though he personally does not oppose gay marriage, according to a statement his office gave The Associated Press in response to the complaint against him.
In their “The time is long past due for the state of Illinois to allow county clerks to issue marriage licenses to couples who want to make that commitment,” the office’s statement said. “I hope this lawsuit clears the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all.”
Lambda Legal’s marriage project director Camilla Taylor said the fact that the defendants agree with her “reflects the fact that we’re at a tipping point now.”
“It comes at a time when a form of discrimination against a class of people in our society is so shameful and reprehensible that it’s incapable of defense,” Taylor told The Associated Press.