While Illinois’ same-sex marriage law will not take effect until June, couples who wish to wed immediately because at least one partner faces a life-threatening illness can now do so. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued a medical exception statewide Monday allowing couples to marry immediately, provided they can acquire a doctor’s note confirming one partner is terminally ill.
The order follows on the heels of a November ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin in Illinois allowing a lesbian couple to marry before the June date through the issuance of an expedited license. Vernita Gray, who has terminal cancer, married Patricia Ewert Nov. 27 and the couple officially became the first to wed under the new Illinois law.
While it was possible for couples to secure expedited licenses prior to Coleman’s ruling, today’s expansion eliminates the requirement to obtain a judge’s order. Though the order only applies to Cook County, couples from throughout the state may acquire a marriage license in the county so long as their marriage takes place there. The decision ensures same sex couples in this situation will not be denied the benefits other couples receive when a partner dies.
Couples who wish to marry early due to medical reasons will be able to access a form from the county clerk’s office. The form, which will be available on the office’s website, will require certification from a physician.
Illinois become the 16th state to legalize gay marriage when Governor Pat Quinn signed it into law on Nov. 20. The marriage equality law takes effect June 1.