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Chicago court orders Illinois to issue first same-sex marriage license to terminally-ill woman and partner

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Illinois state sealVernita Gray and Patricia Ewert will be the first same-sex couple to wed in Illinois, and they will do so before the state’s recently-passed marriage equality law goes into effect next June, after a court issued an emergency order to that effect due to a terminal illness Gray suffers from.

NBC Chicago reports:

The U.S. District Court in Chicago on Monday ordered Cook County’s clerk to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, one of whom is terminally ill.

“I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today,” said Vernita Gray. “I am so happy to get this news. I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass.”

County Clerk David Orr said he would comply with the court’s order, handed down by Judge Thomas Durkin.

Gray, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996, has been in a relationship with Patricia Ewert for five years. But her cancer now imminently threatens her life, according to a statement from Lamda Legal.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed the emergency request with the district court, and it seems quite likely that other couples in such dire needs may follow their example, especially with the effective date of the law coming so late.


  • 1. Eric  |  November 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    The challenge to California's transgender school protection law doesn't appear to be doing very well. The random sampling of the signatures is uncovering too many invalid signatures.

    Full story:

    Secretary of State site with up to date numbers:

  • 2. Paul  |  November 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Alpine County had just one signature. It turned out to be a real one.

  • 3. grod  |  November 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    If there can be compassionate exceptions, why can not out of state marriage be recognized before June 2014 on compassionate grounds. The LGBT community could lobby for an announcement by the IL AG before year-end..

  • 4. grod  |  November 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    [off topic] Good-bye NOM, as well as NOM's Educational Fund. Rule change to not-for-profits under IRS 501(c)4 is long overdue.

  • 5. Chris M.  |  November 26, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    A very interesting ruling from the 9th circuit:

    The panel that included the Chief Justice of that court ruled that domestic partnerships in non-equality states are good enough to require federal recognition as "married", for tax, benefit, etc. purposes. So far it applies to the plaintiffs only, but as one of them said, this is a f'n big deal.

  • 6. Zack12  |  November 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I'm happy but also nervous because this means the bigots can use the civil unions/domestic partnerships as a way to block full marriage equality.
    Sorry,at the end of the day,civil unions/domestic partnerships are still seperate and unequal and I fear this ruling will hurt us more then help us.

  • 7. Dr. Z  |  November 26, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I'm not so sure this case will have much of an impact beyond the plaintiff. It pertained to a federal employee and the federal government's relationship with state law.

  • 8. Zack12  |  November 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    I just worry that it could have a broader impact.
    As bad as it sounds,the federal government stating they wouldn't acknowledge civil unions helped us get marriage equality in NJ.
    I could see something like this being used to justify keeping the gay marriage ban in place in NV or the anti-SSM crowd using this case to claim civil unions and domestic partnerships are seperate but equal when they aren't.
    Or maybe I'm overthinking.

  • 9. Stefan  |  November 27, 2013 at 8:43 am

    No I share your concerns. The fortunate thing is that the ruling isn't binding and will apply only to the couple at hand. It's also unlikely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, and it's even more unlikely that they will hear it.

  • 10. Dr. Z  |  November 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

    A judge in the Ninth issued a similar ruling earlier this year holding Oregon's DOMA law is unconstitutional. That ruling was also limited in scope to the plaintiffs; it has no weight as a precedent either.

  • 11. Richard Weatherwax  |  November 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Just wait, businesses which advertise services for weddings will argue that providing services for domestic partnerships is not their job.

  • 12. LK2013  |  November 27, 2013 at 10:18 am

    It is a very interesting ruling. The Windsor designation that federal benefits should be awarded to "legally married" couples helped us win marriage equality in NJ. BUT since NJ Civil Unions have been described in state law as absolutely equal to marriage in all respects – and this was promised to us over and over and over – and Civil Unions were the only thing available to NJ citizens for 6 years, I absolutely support forcing the Feds to recognize Civil Unions as equal to Marriages so that we can apply for refunds for Federal Income Tax, and especially for Federal imputed income tax, for the past three years. The Oregon decision is a foot in the door.

    I don't see this as hurting marriage equality – I know the legal arguments – because I think the tide has turned, even in the past month or two – and Marriage is coming, the sooner the better, to the entire US. I know the priority is getting Marriage legalized for every state.

    But there is still the matter of addressing the lifetime of discrimination that these "less equal" designations have left behind.

    We believed that when Marriage was recognized in NJ, our Civil Unions would be recognized as Marriages. The NJ Legislature has dragged their feet on this – Civil Unions should be RECOGNIZED RETROACTIVELY AS MARRIAGES – as Illinois will be doing in 2014.

  • 13. Eric  |  November 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

    That's not what the Court ruled.

    The Executive Committee held that the United States Office of Personnel Management’s denial of health benefits for the employee’s same-sex domestic partner violated the District’s EDR Plan and constituted a deprivation of due process and equal protection because the employee and her partner were treated differently from similarly-situated couples on account of their sex or sexual orientation. The Executive Committee held that the employee and her partner
    were treated differently from opposite-sex partners who are allowed to marry and thereby gain spousal benefits under federal law. They also were treated unequally vis-à-vis samesex couples in other states in the circuit, who may marry and thus gain benefits under United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013) (holding unconstitutional federal Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman).

    The Executive Committee overturned the chief district judge’s amended opinion and order and reinstated her earlier opinion and order granting relief.

  • 14. LK2013  |  November 27, 2013 at 10:23 am

    My comment relates to the Ninth Circuit decision in Oregon, in which the Judges argue that the Federal Office of Personal Management's decision to offer federal benefits only to "married" couples was discriminatory; Oregon's domestic partnerships were described as equivalent in every way to marriage, and marriage was not available to Oregon same-sex couples:

  • 15. Seth From Maryland  |  November 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    marriage equality chances of passage in 2014 are about to rise alittle bit more, marijuana legalization is likely to placed on the ballot by the legislature , this is going to turn the youth vote

  • 16. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Correct, Seth, especially in places like Maryland (although it won't be the legislature putting it on the ballot, but opponents if the legislature passes a bill to legalize marijuana).

    The Maryland state legislature this past session passed a medical marijuana bill that was signed into law by Governor O'Malley. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

    O'Malley is term limited, so the Democratic nominee will be a 'new' face. One of those possible 'new' faces (Delegate Heather Mizeur) has proposed complete legalization of marijuana, and the state treating it similar to alcohol (taxing and regulating it) should be the law of the state. Proceeds would be used to better fund the state and enhance public safety by allowing law enforcement to focus greater attention on more serious crime. It also could be used to further enhance pre-K education.

    There has not been a loud backlash to her proposal – mostly silence from her opponents and supporters of her opponents.

    If Mizeur had made this proposal as few as four years ago, the backlash would almost certainly have been swift and powerful.

  • 17. Seth From Maryland  |  November 28, 2013 at 11:27 am

    i had in mind Oregon, , it work to our advantage and their as well because a lot their supporters on their campaign will support as well as our side supporting theirs, in a way you could say both campaign may end up pushing each other over the finish line, this is kinda what happen in Washington

  • 18. Dr. Z  |  November 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    They're married! MAZEL TOV!

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