That was until a federal judge intervened this week and allowed
the two women, in their mid-60s, to get an expedited marriage
license as Gray suffers from terminal cancer. Now the two are
set to become the first gay couple in Illinois to take their
vows, a private ceremony that could take place as early as
"She went from one day being as full of energy as
she could be to being completely bedridden," Ewert said of her
As for waiting until June, Ewert said: "It's a long time in
the cancer world."
Their legal battle could be just the beginning and may fuel
efforts to change the effective date of the law, which Gov. Pat
Quinn signed last week. There's legislation pending to allow the
law to take effect immediately and it could come up in late
January when lawmakers gather in Springfield.
Quinn, who helped Illinois legalize civil unions in 2011,
said if lawmakers sent him that bill he'd sign it.
"I'd say the sooner the better," the governor told reporters
The women filed a lawsuit in federal court late Friday last
week, citing Gray's cancer as a reason to get a marriage license
quickly. Then on Monday, a judge ordered the license and Cook
County clerk officials hand-delivered it.
All that remains is having a ceremony officiated.
"This is the realization of a very long cherished dream for
them both," said Camilla Taylor, the head of the legal advocacy
group Lambda Legal, which helped represent the couple.
She said marriage also means that Ewert will be better
protected when it comes to taxes and other federal benefits not
guaranteed with a civil union.
The two first met at a work event hosted by the Cook County
state's attorney's office and soon started dating. They were
engaged in 2009. Ewert said she was "immediately attracted" to
Gray, who worked as a victims' advocate in the Cook County court
system. Ewert works for state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago
"Vernita is bigger than life. She has done so much with her
life and given so much to her community," Ewert said. "She is a
force of nature."