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Court victory! Illinois gay and lesbian couples can marry immediately

A federal court today in Chicago ordered the Cook County Clerk’s office to provide marriage licenses immediately to same-gender couples seeking the freedom to marry, rather than require them to wait until June, the default implementation date for the marriage equality bill passed by the Illinois legislature last year.

The decision in the case, Lee v. Orr, filed on behalf of several Illinois couples seeking to marry immediately by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois in December, is the latest development in the momentum for marriage in Illinois.

“The wait is over! We are thrilled that the court recognized the unfairness of forcing same-sex couples to wait for months to marry,” said Christopher Clark, counsel for Lambda Legal. “Justice has prevailed and full equality is no longer delayed for Illinoisans who wish to marry in Cook County before June 1st.”

On Friday, Dec. 6, Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed Lee v. Orr, a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Illinois gay and lesbian couples who apply to marry in Cook County prior to June 1, 2014. Lambda Legal and the ACLU also filed an emergency motion seeking immediate issuance of marriage licenses to Elvie Jordan and Challis Gibbs, and Ronald Dorfman and Ken Ilio, and all other same-gender couples facing terminal illness. The court granted this emergency motion on Wednesday, Dec. 11, permitting same-sex couples facing a terminal illness to marry immediately by presenting a doctor’s certification.

On Dec. 24, the ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment asking the court to find unconstitutional Illinois laws that continue to exclude same-sex couples and their children from marriage until June 1, 2014, the default implementation date for the marriage legislation that passed through the Illinois General Assembly last fall.

Today’s decision, effective immediately, allows any same-gender couple in Illinois who meets the other requirements for marriage to apply for and be issued a license allowing them to marry in Cook County.

“We’re thrilled that Judge Coleman recognized the serious harm to the many Illinois families from continuing to deny them the freedom to marry,” said John Knight, LGBT and AIDS Project Director for the ACLU of Illinois. “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.”

In her decision today, Judge Coleman noted that the question before her was “why should we wait.” She cited the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who noted that “the time is always ripe to do right.”

For more information about obtaining a marriage license, visit cookcountyclerk.com. Marriage licenses are valid from the day after issuance and for 60 days. Couples who wish to convert their civil union date to their date of marriage must appear together in person. The license fee will be waived for any couple who already has an Illinois civil union license.

“We are very excited to celebrate this historic milestone with every loving couple from today onward,” Orr said.

The case is Lee v. Orr. You can read the decision HERE.

The ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal are joined by attorneys Jordan Heinz, Jeremy Press and Lally Gartel at Kirkland & Ellis and Marc Beem and Kay Dawson at Miller, Shakman and Beem.