"I just want to be married to the person that I love."

That is what Tanya Lazaro, a 13-year veteran (and Detective) in the Chicago Police Department told the Chicago Sun Times as part of an interview for a story in this morning’s paper announcing that the ACLU and the ACLU of Illinois have filed a lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Illinois. The lawsuit is being coordinated with Lambda Legal, which filed a similar suit on behalf of additional couples today.

The ACLU represents nine couples in all.   The diverse group ranges in age from their 30s to their 70s. They live throughout Illinois – from a Chicago northern suburb all the way to Marion in Southern Illinois. Some have children. Others do not. One couple has 22 grandchildren – with another on the way. Yet they all share the hope and aspiration for the dignity and recognition of their loving, committed relationships that only marriage can provide. Yes, they all simply want to marry the person that they love.

Among the plaintiffs are Edwin Hamilton and Gary Magruder who have been together a remarkable 48 years. Ed speaks eloquently and passionately of wanting his marriage to Gary in Canada to be recognized in his home state so he can enjoy his “golden years” married to the person he loves.

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Randy Walden and his future husband Robert Carey of Springfield know that only marriage will insure that they do not re-live the horrific circumstances that Randy faced when his long-time partner, Curt, died of cancer. Whenever Curt was hospitalized, personnel regularly challenged their relationship, ignoring Curt’s wishes to have Randy make health care decisions for him.  Randy was not permitted to spend the night with Curt in the hospital – that privilege was reserved only for spouses. He was denied information about Curt’s worsening condition until it was almost too late. One morning, Randy rushed to Curt’s bedside to find him nearing death.  Curt woke long enough to tell Randy that he loved him, the last words he ever spoke. Randy and Bob never want to face such a nightmare scenario.  No couple should have to.

Some of our clients sought civil unions after they became available – but found that they were a second-class status that many did not understand. Many officials didn’t understand what a civil union entailed. One couple told us that her employer required proof of the civil union for insurance coverage – though none of her straight colleagues could remember being asked to produce a marriage license. And that lack of understanding has consequences. One couple from Bloomington reports that when a co-worker attempted to mark their civil union by announcing it at a staff meeting, the co-worker stumbled over the words. She didn’t know whether to say that the couple had “gotten a civil union” or were “civil unionized.” To break the awkwardness, our client joked that “our relationship is now civilized.” Everyone laughed.

No one laughs when they hear that someone has gotten married. They simply applaud and congratulate the newlyweds. Our clients deserve that celebration that we readily associate with marriage and we look forward to the day when they and other lesbian and gay Illinoisans have the freedom to marry in Illinois.

Cross-posted from the ACLU's Blog of Rights.