Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, a Roman Catholic who has clashed with Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, has presided over two gay weddings this year, including a double wedding last week.
The double ceremony, held at Keith House in Chicago’s South Loop, marked the first time a member of the state’s highest court has married a same-sex couple since all counties began issuing marriage licenses to them in June, Burke said.
A brother and sister each married same-sex partners, said Burke, whose daughter knows one of the couples.
“That’s how they reached out to me,” Burke said. “The guys walked the girls down the aisle, and then took their respective partners’ hands. The girls wore wedding dresses. The guys had on nice suits and royal blue ties.”
Burke said she wore her judicial robe with a rainbow streamer draped around her neck.
“The couples have children,” Burke said. “They were there. It really was a love fest. I’m happy for them. And it was a long time coming. The gentlemen had been together 25 years.”
Burke officiated at another same-sex wedding a few weeks ago after a federal judge ruled in February that the delayed effective date Illinois' same-sex marriage law -- June 1 -- was unnecessary. The ruling prompted the Cook County clerk's office to immediately start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The matter never reached the Illinois Supreme Court, where Burke has presided since 2006. Burke never has hidden her support for gay marriage, even encouraging friends to go through civil unions to help the cause of marriage equality.
“I told them, ‘The (state) Legislature won’t think you’re serious unless you do civil unions,’” Burke said.
Her opinion runs counter to the teachings of the Catholic church to which she belongs. George and other Catholic bishops across the state urged Illinois lawmakers not to extend marriage to same-sex couples, saying the attempt to alter the state's definition of marriage threatened an institution that society counts on for raising children and teaching men and women to depend on each other.
Burke has disagreed with the cardinal before, notably while leading a lay advisory board to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops investigating clergy sexual abuse of minors. In Kerry Kennedy’s book “Being Catholic Now,” Burke accused George of dishonesty during one investigation and of being “in denial” of the abuse around him. George denied the accusations.
Burke has since said she and the cardinal have a cordial relationship.
She added that her personal beliefs were irrelevant to the role she played at both weddings.
“It’s what the law permits,” she said. “Needless to say, I think there are people who would probably step back from this. I don’t feel I should or would.”
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