Originally published on Advocate.com March 06 2004 1:00 AM ET
Approximately 300 protesters rallied outside the Cook County, Ill., administration building in downtown Chicago on Thursday demanding that Cook County clerk David Orr issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians. A law passed by the Illinois legislature in 1996 bans same-sex marriage. Orr has called the law unconstitutional and discriminatory but has said he won't break it. Chicago mayor Richad Daley recently came out in favor of legal marriage for gays and lesbians but has not called for marriage licenses to be issued.
Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's sister-in-law was arrested at the rally, authorities said. Police arrested Deborah Mell, who is the daughter of Chicago alderman Richard Mell, after she lowered her head and shoulders "like a football player" and charged into a police lieutenant, causing the officer to fall down as police were trying to keep demonstrators from going into the street, police spokeswoman JoAnn Taylor said. Deborah Mell was charged with misdemeanor simple battery, authorities said. After Mell's arrest, Blajojevich issued a statement reiterating that he doesn't support gay marriage. He also said he doesn't believe there is ever justification for discriminating against gays and lesbians. "I love my sister-in-law and respect her right to express her views," Blajojevich said in the statement. "Even though I believe in the current law that defines marriage as a man and a woman, I admire her conviction in fighting for something she believes in."