For gay couples hoping to marry in Illinois' Cook County, the days of waiting are finally over.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued a federal order Friday stating that gay couples in the state’s largest county, which includes Chicago, shouldn’t have to keep their nuptials on hold until June 1, when Illinois’ marriage equality law goes into effect. In compliance with that ruling, Cook County Clerk David Orr announced he would start issuing marriage licenses immediately to same-sex couples, who would be able to wed as early as Saturday.
"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," said Judge Coleman, who was appointed by President Obama.
Friday’s ruling, which applies only to Cook County, follows an earlier decision Coleman made in December that allowed same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses before June if one or both partners suffered from a life-threatening illness. Before that, a different federal judge ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray, who was told by doctors she could have only weeks to live. They became the first same-sex couple to marry in the state.
Cook County Clerk David Orr said in statement that he was “thrilled” with Friday’s ruling. “We are very excited to celebrate this historic milestone with every loving couple from today onward."
Patricia Tucker, one of the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the Cook County Clerk’s office, said she was elated by the news. “We’ve been married in our heads, now we’ll have a piece of paper to prove it,” Tucker told the Chicago Sun-Times. She plans to marry her partner, Ingrid Swenson, in the near future.
Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage last November after the legislature passed SB10, otherwise known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law two weeks later.