CHICAGO (Reuters) — Same-sex couples in
Illinois' Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, can wed
immediately and do not have to wait to tie the knot until a new state
law legalizing gay marriage takes effect in June, a federal judge ruled
Illinois lawmakers approved same-sex marriage late in 2013,
effective on June 1, and several couples had sued Cook County Clerk
David Orr for the right to marry immediately.
"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 U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in Chicago.
Coleman had ruled in December that Cook County same-sex couples
could obtain an emergency marriage license ahead of June if one
partner had a life-threatening illness, and some same-sex couples
have been issued a license on that basis.
On Friday, she said the Illinois ban on same-sex marriage until June
violated the couples' rights to equal protection under the U.S.
Constitution, but her finding only applied to Cook County, based on
the case brought to her.
Orr, who supported the couples' request, said the clerk's office in
downtown Chicago would issue same-sex marriage licenses on Friday
and stay open two hours longer than usual. All offices will issue
licenses starting on Monday, he said.
Fewer than a dozen marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex
couples by mid-afternoon on Friday, but "the couples keep coming,"
said Orr's spokeswoman, Courtney Greve.
Orr married one couple on the spot Friday who had obtained a judge's
waiver, Greve said. A license, good for 60 days, normally is valid
the day after it is issued.
Another couple, Dan Paulos, 54, a dentist, and Stephen Pease, 35,
his partner of 14 years, were the sixth to obtain a license. Paulos
said they heard about it on the news.
"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," Paulos said.
Paulos and Pease had planned to marry in Hawaii next month, but
instead will be married Saturday by a judge and honeymoon in Hawaii,
they said. They officially became domestic partners and previously
entered a civil union.
"In our minds we have been married for years," Pease said. "This is
just the last legal step."
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said same-sex couples in every county of
the state should be able to marry before June.
Chicago welcomes all couples, said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "I look
forward to the day where every American enjoys the same freedom to
marry, and when our country can provide equal rights to every man or
woman — gay or straight," he said.
In all, 17 states, including Illinois, and the District of Columbia
recognize gay marriage in a movement that has gained momentum since
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that legally married same-sex
couples are eligible for federal benefits.
Since mid-December, federal judges have also ruled unconstitutional
bans on same-sex marriage in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia. Those
decisions have been stayed pending appeals.
Court challenges of same-sex marriage bans are pending in several
other states as well.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis and Karen
Pierog in Chicago; editing by Gunna Dickson, Cynthia
Johnston and Gunna Dickson)