Judge Durkin grants marriage license to terminally ill woman, pa - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Judge orders expedited marriage license for terminally ill woman, partner

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A federal judge issued an order late Monday that clears the way for Illinois' first-ever same-sex marriage to take place any time after midnight.

The lawyers for the same-sex couple said one of the women has terminal cancer that began in her breast, but has now spread to her brain and other parts of the body. They said doctors fear she may live to the June 1st date on which gay marriage becomes officially legal in Illinois. Cook County Clerk David Orr was prepared to issue the first-ever same-sex marriage license Monday night.

"I was stunned," Gray said upon hearing of the expedited marriage license order. "And just stunned and excited. It's like Christmas, my birthday, good Tooth Fairy all rolled into one."

Even though the doors were locked promptly at 5 p.m. at the office that issues marriage licenses, County Clerk David Orr told FOX 32 News he was sending an employee to the North Side condo of Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert, a lesbian couple whose lawyers won an extraordinary order in Federal Court.

Ms. Gray has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Doctors say she may be dead long before the June 1st date on which gay marriage becomes legal in Illinois. Marital status could affect estate taxes, social security survivor's benefits and other financial issues, and the couple sought emergency permission to marry now.

Gray said she wants to wed Patricia Ewert, perhaps this week, to assure that her fiancée will get full marital benefits after her death.

"I have a pension. I have Social Security," Gray said. "These are the things we work for in life for our families, not to just disappear because I'm going to leave this earth."

State Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a brief arguing that the June 1 date "is outweighed here by the urgent circumstances presented in this case."

A spokeswoman for the County Clerk said the office "once or twice a month" takes special steps to accommodate heterosexual couples facing extreme circumstances. The clerk's office calls them "hospital cases."

"In dire circumstances, when somebody is facing an illness or even members of our military who are being deployed, we try to expedite the marriage licenses, so that people can marry before the event." Courtney Greve of the County Clerk's Office explains.

Aside from the tragic circumstances here, the case does play neatly into the political strategy of same-sex marriage advocates who want the General Assembly to revisit the issue in early January--and legalize it immediately, instead of requiring gay couples to wait until June 1st.

The couple's lawyer says it's possible they could be married as soon as Wednesday.

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