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Illinois Same-Sex Couples May Marry If One Partner Has Life-Threatening Illness

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 16, 2013 10:00PM

A federal judge paved the way Monday for scores of same-sex couples to legally marry in Illinois ahead of the state's marriage equality law becoming law June 1, 2014.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ordered the Cook County Clerk's office to immediately issue marriage licenses to all Illinois same-sex couples who, because of a life-threatening illness, cannot wait until next summer to get married. Coleman's order comes after three Illinois couples were granted emergency marriage license applications because one of the partners has a terminal illness. Vernita Gray and Pat Ewart were the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Illinois after they won a court order last month. Gray has been fighting breast cancer since 1996 that has spread to her bones and formed inoperable tumors in her brain. Her last wish is to be married to Ewert, to whom she proposed to on Christmas Day 2009.

On Monday, Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs, and Ronald Dorfman and Ken Ilio were granted marriage license applications after Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed suit on behalf of four same-sex couples and then asked for emergency marriage licenses for these two couples and for all other couples facing terminal illness. Mr. Dorfman has been diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition, and Ms. Gibbs has metastatic cancer and may not be able to wait several months until the default enactment date of the marriage law to get married.

County Clerks offices across Illinois will be able to issue marriage licenses immediately to same-sex couples provided the couples provide a doctor's note indicating one partner has a life-threatening illness.

Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement, "While no one should be told that they cannot marry for a period of months, for couples who are dealing with a life-threatening medical condition, the delay in implementing Illinois' marriage law could turn out to be an absolute bar to being married at all. We thank the Court and the clerk's office for their swift response to ensure that Illinois couples who are struggling with the challenges of a life-threatening illness will have a chance to be married."

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill into law last month making Illinois the 16th state to recognize same-sex marriage.