CHICAGO - Mayor Richard M. Daley has publicly endorsed same-sex unions, saying he has "no problem" with Cook County issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples because they "love one another just as much as anyone else."
Daley - a devout Roman Catholic who has taken a liberal stand on other social issues - declined to say whether the third-largest U.S. city will follow the cue of San Francisco, where thousands of marriage certificates have been issued to same-sex couples over the past week.
The national debate over gay and lesbian unions intensified after the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts clarified its stand on same-sex unions. On Feb. 4, the court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to marry, beginning May 17.
Daley disagreed with critics who believe that legalizing such partnerships would undermine the institution of marriage.
"Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don't tell me about marriage," Daley said during a routine meeting with reporters late Wednesday.
"Don't blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community."
Yesterday, Daley said in a statement that his support of same-sex marriages is his own opinion and "does not represent any official city position."
In Chicago and most other U.S. cities, the authority to issue marriage certificates rests with the county. In San Francisco, both a city and a county, Mayor Gavin Newsom had staff alter marriage license forms to remove references to gender and began issuing them to same-sex couples. While critics say that the city is violating state law, Newsom says that banning such marriages is a violation of California's constitutional protections against discrimination.
Cook County officials said yesterday that while there has been some discussion about the matter, state law prohibits the clerk's office from giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Since Oct. 1, however, gays and lesbians have been able to obtain a certificate of domestic partnership from the clerk's office. The certificates cost $30, the same as a marriage certificate.
"I am deeply troubled that discrimination based on sexual orientation persists today," said Cook County Clerk David Orr. "Presently, my office is working with local, state and federal lawmakers, as well as advocacy groups, in discussing how best to address this issue."
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.