A Cook County, Illinois judge on Thursday agreed to consolidate two lawsuits challenging the state's ban on gay marriage.

The two separate lawsuits represent more than two dozen gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry in Illinois but are unable because state law defines marriage as a heterosexual union. Nine couples are represented by the ACLU of Illinois in one lawsuit, while Lambda Legal is representing sixteen couples in another. Both suits were filed on the same day.

During a brief hearing, Judge Moshe Jacobius agreed to combine the cases, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The suits were filed a year after Illinois legalized civil unions for gay couples and two weeks after President Barack Obama endorsed gay marriage. Obama represented Illinois as a senator before winning the White House.

Illinois officials, including Cook County state's attorney and the Illinois attorney general, have refused to defend the law, saying they agree the ban is unconstitutional.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who is named in the suits, applauded the legal challenges.

The conservative Thomas More Society has said it would intervene to defend the law. According to the Chicago Tribune, however, the organization has yet to petition the court.

Lambda Legal has also filed a lawsuit challenging Nevada's prohibition on gay couples marrying.