(AP) — Twenty-five Illinois couples were prepared for a long legal fight when they joined lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage. Turns out they won’t get one — at least not from the attorneys who would normally be responsible for defending the state’s laws.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have refused to defend the 16-year-old ban, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, saying it violates the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

The decision has raised eyebrows among some legal experts who believe prosecutors are legally bound to defend Illinois law, and sets up a scenario where a judge could quickly strike down the marriage statute. Supporters of the ban say it’s unconscionable that there might be nobody in court to defend it, and some are strategizing over how to intervene.

“I took an oath when I was sworn in to defend the constitution of the state of Illinois and I believe that’s what I’m doing,” Alvarez said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m not going to defend something I believe is in violation of the constitution.”

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