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Topics In the News
Marriage Equality Comes to Illinois
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/21/14
Last updated on: 05/31/14
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On February 21, 2014, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that Cook County same-sex couples may marry immediately notwithstanding the fact that Illinois's recently adopted marriage equality law does not take effect until June 1, 2014. The ruling, which applies to Cook County but may be extended throughout the state, comes in a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois on behalf of several gay and lesbian couples.

As reported by Chicago Sun-Times, Judge Johnson Coleman said in her ruling, "There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry."

Cook County Clerk David Orr said his office will issue licenses immediately and couples can get married as soon as Saturday.

"I'm thrilled same-sex couples who want to get married won't have to wait any longer," he said in a statement. "We are very excited to celebrate this historic milestone with every loving couple from today onward."

Patricia Tucker, one of the plaintiffs in the case, along with her partner Ingrid Swenson, was overjoyed to hear the news.

"We've been married in our heads, now we'll have a piece of paper to prove it," Tucker said.

Orr cautioned couples that the license is only good for 60 days.

"Don't rush to get your license if you have a summer wedding planned because you don't want your licence to expire before your big day," he said in the statement.

The ruling in the class-action lawsuit against the Cook County Clerk's office directly affects only same-sex marriages in Cook County, but advocates say that it should apply throughout the state.

A spokesperson for the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement, "Today's decision recognizes the constitutional right of couples to marry the person they love now, without waiting for that arbitrary deadline. It also builds on momentum from decisions across the nation, recognizing the freedom to marry for couples from Virginia to Oklahoma. We are thrilled to be part of this historic decision. Illinois is a fairer, stronger state moving forward."

ACLU of Illinois communications and public policy director Edwin C. Yohnka told BuzzFeed that "We are urging other clerks to abide by the ruling."<'p>

Lambda Legal's Camilla Taylor hopes that the ruling encourages other county clerks "do the right thing" and allow same-sex marriages immediately. She told BuzzFeed that ruling was a "facial ruling"--meaning the judge determined the law was unconstitutional in all circumstances. Thus, she said, it is applicable statewide.

In November 2013, Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage, but the law passed by the legislature does not take effect until June 1, 2014.

In December, Judge Johnson Coleman ruled that same-sex couples in which one or both partners has a life-threatening illness may do so immediately. That ruling came after Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert became the first same-sex couple to wed in Illinois after they received an expedited license from another judge because of Gray's health problems.

As Michelle Manchir reports in the Chicago Tribune, within an hour of Judge Johnson Coleman's ruling on February 21, gay and lesbian couples began showing up at the Chicago Clerk's office to apply for marriage licenses. Clerk David Orr even married a couple Friday afternoon.

The video below reports on the same-sex marriages in Chicago.

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