Federal Court in Illinois Orders Immediate Marriage License for Terminally Ill Woman and Her Lesbian Partner

Federal Court in Illinois Orders Immediate Marriage License for Terminally Ill Woman and Her Lesbian Partner
November 25, 2013
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Today, a federal court ordered the Cook County Clerk to immediately issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple in Chicago. Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed the case on Friday, November 22, seeking immediate action for Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert. The ruling comes in advance of the June 1, 2014 implementation date of the recently enacted law that extends the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Ms. Gray has cancer that has spread to her bones and brain and will likely not live until the marriage law goes into effect. Judge Thomas Durkin issued the order in Chicago this afternoon.

Read our FAQ: Illinois Marriage Law.

Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal, said:

Vernita is terminally ill and she wishes to marry the woman she loves before she dies—and now she won’t have to wait another day. These two women, who have loved and cared for each other in good times and bad, through sickness and through health, will get to know what it means to be married.

Ms. Gray and Ms. Ewert have been in a committed, loving relationship for five years. After a first date that included a play at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the couple has been inseparable.

Ms. Gray was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Despite years of treatment and therapy, the cancer now imminently threatens her life. As the couple struggles through this difficult time together, marriage would not only allow the couple to celebrate their commitment to each other but also provide protection for Ms. Ewert.

Ms. Gray said:

I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today - 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.

John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the ACLU of Illinois, said:

The court recognized that Vernita and Pat should not be denied the freedom to marry simply because of the arbitrary nature of the start date of the new law. Their love deserves the dignity of marriage now and there is simply no justification for forcing them to wait.

The ACLU of Illinois and Lambda Legal asked that the case be heard on an emergency basis. Lawyers from Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, joined by counsel at Kirkland & Ellis and Miller, Shakman and Beem, asked the federal district court in Chicago to allow Mr. Orr to issue Ms. Gray and Ms. Ewert a marriage license so that they can be immediately married.

Read the press release.

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