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2013-NOV to 2014-FEB: Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Illinois.

One same-sex couple marries in 2013-NOV.
Others start marrying during 2014-FEB in
Cook and Champaign Counties.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2013-NOV-26: Federal court decision: One same-sex couple are allowed to marry right away:

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, and private attorneys filed a motion with a federal court late on NOV-22 asking for special consideration that would allow Vernita Gray, 64, and her partner of five years -- Patricia Ewert, 65 -- to marry immediately. The state's Attorney's office represented the plaintiff -- Cook County Clerk David Orr. Orr's office chose to not defend itself against the lawsuit. On the next working day, NOV-25, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ordered the Cook County Clerk David Orr to immediately issue a marriage license to the couple. Cook County officials hand-delivered the license. The couple will become the first same-sex partners to be legally married in Illinois. They had earlier been "civil unionized" -- in 2011-JUN.

Vernita has been suffering from cancer for a few years. It has now spread to her bones and brain. It is unlikely that she would live long enough for the marriage law to become effective in early 2014-JUN.

Patricia Ewert was surprised that the courts could act as quickly as they did. She said:

"Things went so much faster than we expected them to. We didn't expect there to be so much interest. We're just two little old ladies from Chicago."

Gray said:

"I have two cancers, bone and brain, and I just had chemo today — I am so happy to get this news. I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner, and my family, should I pass."

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director at Lambda Legal said:

"Vernita is terminally ill and she wishes to marry the woman she loves before she dies — and now she won’t have to wait another day. These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married."

She also said:

"They have had a civil union, but marriage is a value that is important to them. To be married here in Illinois, where they live, is crucial. It's something Vernita held as a dream for a while. ... One of Vernita's concerns was her ability to take care of Pat when she goes. Once they are married, that will make a difference to Pat's situation financially."

She concluded:

"This case illustrates the cruelty of being made to wait seven months to be able to marry. There is no sense to that, and there are many Illinois families that are suffering significant harm because they are not married. While this family's situation is particularly dire, there are others, too, who need to be able to marry."

John Knight, LGBT project director at the ACLU of Illinois said:

"The court recognized that Vernita and Pat should not be denied the freedom to marry simply because of the arbitrary nature of the start date of the new law. Their love deserves the dignity of marriage now and there is simply no justification for forcing them to wait." 1,2,3

The District Court judge's ruling was sufficiently flexible to allow several other couples in which one partner had a short life expectancy to marry

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2014-FEB-21: Federal judge ordered Cook County to start issuing marriage licenses immediately:

A lawsuit had been filed in federal District Court by a group of same-sex couples, including Mercedes Santos and Theresa Volpe of Chicago. It asked that same-sex marriages be allowed immediately instead of 2014-JUN when the legislation specified. David Orr, Clerk of Cook County was named as the defendant. Orr supports marriage equality and chose to not offer a defense. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that Illinois' original ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Thus, there was nothing to prevent same-sex couples in Cook County from marrying immediately. That afternoon, the downtown courthouse was flooded with couples picking up their licenses.

Judge Coleman wrote:

"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."

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WGN news video:

 4

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2014-FEB-21: Marriages start in Cook County, IL:

First couple to get wedding license Charlie Gurion, 25, found out about the morning court ruling via Facebook and was at the courthouse with his fiancé David Wilk, 30, by 12:30 PM. They were the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license that day. 5 Wilk broke into tears when they received the license. He said:

"I feel like my love for him is stronger; I wasn't expecting to feel that rush of emotion. It just feels different now. I want to go home and ... tell everybody what we just did. It feels right."

They expected to marry the next day, but to also hold a celebration on SEP-19 when they had originally planned to marry. 6

Later that afternoon, Theresa Volpe and Mercedes Santos were married in in Cook County Clerk David Orr's office, with their 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. They held rose bouquets, a gift from Clerk Orr. (The guy's got class!)

Volpe said:

"I think this has really put the ... stamp of approval on the fact that no matter your family makeup, your family is important and marriage is important; equality is important. Our children now can look at their family and know they're as equal as their cousins' families and their friends' [families]." 7

Santos, 48, said to reporters:

"Marriage for us is about family. ... There is no right or wrong as far as who gets married."

Because Cook County includes the City of Chicago it is the second most populous county in the U.S. At least some of the remaining 100 counties in Illinois may quickly follow suit. However Illinois is only 211 mi (340 km) East to West and 381 mi (613 km) North to South, so dedicated same-sex couples from all over Illinois could drive to Cook County to pick up licenses. However, they are only valid for marriage purposes within Cook County and only for 60 days. There is normally a waiting period until the next day after the license is obtained before a marriage can take place.

Pat Quinn (D), the Governor of Illinois issued a statement saying:

"Many couples in Illinois have waited long enough for marriage equality, and today's ruling means thousands of Illinois couples no longer have to wait.

Our law is a victory for equal rights in America, and shows that citizens and lawmakers can come together on issues of fairness and human rights.”

I applaud U.S. District Court Judge Sharon J. Coleman for her stance in recognizing that 'there is no reason to delay further' giving all couples the right to marry in Cook County.

Every county across the state should enjoy the same freedom without having to wait until June."

John Knight, LGBT and AIDS Project Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said:

"We’re thrilled that Judge Coleman recognized the serious harm to the many Illinois families from continuing to deny them the freedom to marry. The U.S. Constitution guarantees these families the personal and emotional benefits as well as the critical legal protections of marriage now, and we are thankful that the court extended this dignity to couples immediately."

Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal, said:

"The wait is over! We are thrilled that the court recognized the unfairness of forcing same-sex couples to wait for months to marry. Justice has prevailed and full equality is no longer delayed for Illinoisans who wish to marry in Cook County before June 1." 8

Judge Coleman's ruling caused state Senator Kyle McCarter (R) to withdraw his bill to repeal the same-sex marriage law. He said:

"The ruling is both disappointing and troubling. Obviously disappointing because of the radical change to our culture that the same-sex marriage law ushers in and the fact citizens in general were given no adequate voice in the decision-making." 9

The public did not play a direct role in the passage of the same-sex marriage law because it was an act of the Legislature. Instead, they played an indirect role -- as for all other bills that became laws -- by electing members to the Legislature.

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2014-FEB-26: Champaign County Clerk starts supplying marriage licenses to same-sex couples; others might follow suit:

Champaign County is located slightly to the East of the center of the state of Illinois. It is about 140 miles (230 km) south of Chicago by road.

On FEB-26, Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said that his office would supply marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Noting that Cook County had already started, he concluded that delaying any longer was not necessary and that: "gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry." He issued a statement saying that:

"After consulting with State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, I have come to the conclusion that the rationale of the case applies to all citizens of Illinois and that Champaign County residents should have no fewer constitutional rights than those in Cook County. ... [Delaying further] would provide no benefit to the county and would likely result in litigation at taxpayer expense."

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois issued a statement saying:

"While we were thrilled with Friday’s ruling that applied to Cook County, this is a major step that instantly spreads marriage equality to another major region of the state. We are working with more county clerks to help them step up."

However, Lake County Clerk Willard Helander in the North-East corner of Illinois said earlier:

"We were not a party to that court case. We just don’t have the authority." 10

Kathy Michael, Clerk of McLean County hopes to be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples by the middle of the week starting MAR-01. McLean County shares part of its border with Champaign County. 11

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Federal Court in Illinois orders immediate marriage license for terminally ill woman and her lesbian partner..." Lambda Legal, 2013-NOV-25, at: http://lambdalegal.org/
  2. Trudy Ring, "Terminally Ill Woman and Partner First to Marry Under Illinois Law," SheWired, 2013-NOV-26, at: http://www.shewired.com/
  3. "Dying woman Vernita Gray can marry partner Patricia Ewert early in Illinois," NEWS.COM.AU, 2013-NOV-27, at: http://www.news.com.au/
  4. "Same sex couples marry," WGN, 2014-FEB-22. at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  5. E. Jason Wambsgans, "Cook County gay marriage," Chicago Tribune, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
  6. Tammy Webber & Sophia Tareen, "Judge: Gay Couples Can Wed Sooner in Ill. County," ABC News, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  7. Sophia Tareen, "Federal judge: Gay marriages can begin in Illinois' Cook County; no need to wait until June," Star Tribune, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://www.startribune.com/
  8. Michelle Manchir, "Wedding bells in clerk's office after ruling on same sex marriage," Chicago Tribune, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/
  9. Kurt Erikson, "Counties assessing whether gay marriage licenses can be issued early," Pantagraph, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://www.pantagraph.com/
  10. Kim Geiger, "Champaign County begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses," Chicago Tribune, 2014-FEB-26, at: http://my.chicagotribune.com/
  11. Colin Murphy, "Third Illinois county plans to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples," 2014-FEB-27, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-NOV-25
Latest update: 2014-MAR-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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