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Fed Judge: Gay Couples can Wed in Chicago

by Sophia Tareen and Tammy Webber
Friday Feb 21, 2014
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Same-sex couples in Illinois’ largest county can begin applying for marriage licenses immediately, according to a federal judge’s ruling Friday that some attorneys said could give county clerks across the state reason to also issue marriage certificates right away.

Illinois has legalized same-sex marriage, but the new law doesn’t take effect until June 1. However, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled Friday that same-sex marriages can begin in Cook County, where Chicago is located.

"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," she wrote in the order.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed against Cook County Clerk David Orr, who supports gay marriage. Coleman already ruled in December that same-sex couples did not have to wait until June to marry if one or both partners has a life-threatening illness. Several same-sex couples married after that ruling.

The judge’s decision only applies to Cook County, according to the ruling.

But attorneys for Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois - who filed the lawsuit - said there was guidance for clerks statewide.

Christopher Clark, counsel at Lambda Legal in Chicago, said the fact that a federal judge said the state’s marriage ban was unconstitutional by violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment could be a signal to other county clerks who have to uphold the law.

"It’s an enormous victory," he said. "We’re thrilled.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state’s marriage law in November after attempts earlier in the year had stalled in the state Legislature.

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