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Illinois’ Attorney General says county clerks can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples

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IllinoisIllinois’ Attorney General Lisa Madigan has issued guidance allowing county clerks to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples upon request. A federal judge had ruled that all same-sex couples in Cook County could marry, despite the fact that the state’s marriage equality law doesn’t go into effect until June of this year. The Champaign County Clerk has also decided to start issuing licenses.

The new guidance is in response to these developments. The guidance stops short of requiring all counties to allow same-sex couples to get married:

Madigan said county clerks should consult with their state’s attorneys, consider federal rulings on the issue and the cost and potential litigation in the event of a lawsuit challenging any denial. She said if requests for licenses are denied, “couples may opt to obtain their marriage licenses in Cook County to be married there, or they may file a lawsuit.”

Gov. Pat Quinn, in a statement, said every county clerk in Illinois should quickly follow Madigan’s guidance.

That statement from the governor simply says that the Illinois Department of Public Health will accept all marriage licenses from any county, and that Governor Quinn “encourage[s] every county clerk in Illinois” to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who want to get married. State officials appear to be reassuring all county clerks in the state that they can allow same-sex marriages before the June effective date, though the language isn’t a command to do so.

Several couples have sued and won the right to get married early, because one member of each couple was terminally ill.


  • 1. Michael Grabow  |  March 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Glad to see the AG take charge here.

  • 2. griffcipp  |  March 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Macon County IL County Clerk hopes to start issuing Marriage Licenses by this Friday , March 7, 2014.

  • 3. griffcipp  |  March 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm


    Macon County will start issuing marriages Licenses Monday , March 10, 2014. The office will need the time to update its software and staff. Marriage equality arrives in Decatur and Macon County.

  • 4. grod  |  March 7, 2014 at 5:28 am

    {in the south} St. Clair County Clerk said his county was ready to immediately start issuing marriage licenses. {all the following are bounded by Cook}: Lake County officials will ask IL's AG for clarification. DuPage County officials said it has no legal standing to change course. Kane County Clerk asked. "What authority do we have to issue them?" McHenry County Clerk said "Let me tell you, the law says June 1. If (legislators) want it different, they need to get it changed." Feb. 21, Cook County has issued 292 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including 29 licenses to couples from Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will counties. Equality Illinois said "From our perspective, it's not confusing."

  • 5. grod  |  March 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

    (in the centre) McLean County Clerk has said. "But you can walk in with your appointment and get your marriage license starting March 24. Peoria County is waiting until June 1.

  • 6. grod  |  March 9, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Overlooked is Champaign County which on February 26 became the second of now five counties issuing licenses.

  • 7. grod  |  March 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Wikipedia says seven counties are issuing licenses: Cass, Champaign, Cook, Grundy, Macon, McLean, St. Clair. Which will be 8?

  • 8. grod  |  March 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    # 8 [Deep south]: The clerk in Jackson County said they expects to start issuing licenses. "I intend to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses as soon as someone comes in asking for one." While Cass County Clerk had said. "Waiting to issue the licenses until after June 1 seems trivial", Logan County Clerk said she will wait.

  • 9. grod  |  March 11, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Clark County will not be the 9th. The County Clerk said: "We have to have a software upgrade to change the wording on the application on the marriage licenses to say partner/co-partner rather than bride and groom and Mr. and Mrs." The county says it will have the software issues fixed by June. Anyone volunteering to help Clerk Carrie Downey with her software issue so that licenses could be available sooner?

  • 10. grod  |  March 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    # 9: {Central) Sangamon County to be issuing licenses as early as this week. The clerk estimates most of the same-sex marriage licenses will come from converting the 200 civil unions in the county. Stephenson County Clerk could be the 10th county; the clerk is awaiting the county's legal counsel to learn whether they can start issuing licenses immediately. "As soon as I hear back from him, then we'll make our decision."
    LaSalle, Winnebago and Boone County Clerks identify the hold-up to be in part to software. Lasalle’s clerk said they are in the “throes of updating their software.” All related information on the subject has been turned over to the state’s attorney office for an opinion. Winnebago County Clerk want to follow the law, but the state's rules are changing. Just tell us what you want, but stick to your guns. Boone County Clerk said their offices aren't equipped to handle the new type of license. They don't have the proper documentation for applications, licenses and keepsakes. "Even if we could, we wouldn't be able to, because we don't have the program set," she said. "The program has to be created." Madison Country clerk has been advised to wait until the license comes into effect in June. DeKalb County will not be issuing early licenses even through the County State Attorney gave a positive opinion. Adams, Pike, Hancock and Brown counties say they will wait until the state’s new gay marriage law takes effect, regardless of a federal judge’s ruling.

  • 11. grod  |  March 13, 2014 at 6:37 am

    3/12/14: Someone asked in Jackson County. Still seeking the 10 county to tie the knot.

  • 12. grod  |  March 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    DeKalb, who yesterday said no, today became the 10th. A positive opinion of the county state attorney and a threat of a lawsuit was enough. And who will the 11th be. I'm still following up in Saline Co.

  • 13. grod  |  March 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Update: Cass, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, Grundy, Jackson, McLean, Macon, Madison, St. Clair and Sangamon are issuing licenses. Soon: Johnson and Monroe Counties based on reports of 40/102 counties.

  • 14. grod  |  March 15, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Update: Cass, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, Greene, Grundy, Jackson, McLean, Macon, Madison, Perry, St. Clair, Sangamon and Scott are issuing licenses. Soon: Johnson and Monroe Counties based on reports of 43/102 counties.

  • 15. grod  |  March 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Update: One less – Cass, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, Greene, Grundy, Jackson, McLean, Macon, Madison, Perry, St. Clair, and Scott are prepared to issue licenses based on news reports of 63/102 counties.

  • 16. grod  |  April 1, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Update: While a dozen counties are prepared, 11 have issued licenses. Here a Back Story from the web company that is helping counties get ready.

  • 17. grod  |  April 21, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    16 counties are now issuing licenses, up from 12 four weeks ago.

  • 18. M.-  |  March 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Do we know now the names of the Judges in the panel? Thanks.-

  • 19. mike  |  March 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    anyone heard anything about saline county when they will start?

  • 20. grod  |  March 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Mike: two counties west Jackson Co began offering licenses yesterday. Speak to Saline's clerk Randy Nyberg. You might ask if he knew what Williamson Co's Stuart Hall is doing. It seems if the clerks are not ask, some will not act. It is known that Adams, Brown, Carroll, DuPage, Hancock, Henry, Knox, Madison, McHenry, Peoria, Pike, Rock Island, Whiteside and Will counties have said that they would wait. Winnebago might be persuaded.

  • 21. grod  |  March 27, 2014 at 3:37 am

    mike Saline County will wait until June. I count it one of 24 that deferred. Still short the position of 40 counties. A dozen+ are issuing licenses, McLean Co began on March 25.

  • 22. StraightDave  |  March 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I'm glad to see continuing progress in IL, but the county-by-county chaos in NM is starting to look sane next to this. Everyone is left to decipher the law on their own and how far they dare push it – and in which direction. It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were a couple stubborn holdouts until June 1. It really is odd to see such an extended gray zone when everyone knows how the story will end. I guess I'm just accustomed to the law being a bit more precise than this. Now it's just roll-your-own rules. NM was a bit like that, but at least they had the clear advantage of no explicit prohibition.

  • 23. ebohlman  |  March 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    In reality, AG Madigan's opinion is solid and the clerks who are delaying are just engaging in political posturing.

    Anyone in the Northern District should be able to obtain a quick injunction requiring their county to issue licenses now. While the Northern District covers only about 10% of IL's counties, it includes about 75% of IL's population.

  • 24. grod  |  March 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    ebohlman: It appears initial success will be achieved county by county – I hunch until you achieve a critical mass. Presently in the North, Cook, Grundy and DeKalb are issuing, with Winnebago willing if pressed to begin. That's 10%, which is the level that has been achieved across the state. A scheduled court hearing was sufficient for DeKalb's clerk to 'take action'. How would a hearing be arranged that would effect the Northern District? I've asked Equality Illinois to help but no e-mail reply yet.

  • 25. dui lawyer cost  |  March 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

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  • 26. Denver DUI Attorney  |  April 24, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I applaud this "That statement from the governor simply says that the Illinois Department of Public Health will accept all marriage licenses from any county, and that Governor Quinn “encourage[s] every county clerk in Illinois” to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who want to get married"

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