CREDIT: Twitter/David Orr (@cookcountyclerk)
Illinois’ marriage equality law is not set to take effect until June 1, but a federal judge has ruled that same-sex couples can begin marrying immediately, at least in Cook County, where a lawsuit was filed. Friday afternoon, 46 couples rushed to the County Clerk David Orr’s office to be the first to get marriage licenses.
In a brief decision, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman actually ruled that Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and should not prohibit couples from marrying. It follows a similar ruling in November allowing couples in which one or both individuals had a terminal illness to begin marrying without having to wait. Coleman explained that all couples’ rights were clearly violated and no one should have to wait for the new law to take effect:
There is no dispute here that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and infringes on the plaintiffs’ fundamental right to marry. Indeed, the defendant and intervenor have joined in plaintiff’s motion, with the caveat that David Orr is bound to follow the law in Illinois. Since the parties agree that marriage is a fundamental right available to all individuals and should not be denied, the focus in this case shifts from the “we can’t wait” for terminally ill individuals to “why should we wait” for all gay and lesbian couples that want to marry. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: the time is always ripe to do right.
Coleman’s decision makes her the sixth federal judge to rule against a state ban on same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act last summer, following Utah, Oklahoma, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia.
Because the lawsuit only named Orr as a plaintiff, the ruling can technically only apply to Cook County, which includes Chicago. However, same-sex couples from anywhere in the state can travel there to get a marriage license of their own. Mayor Rahm Emanuel seemed to give his blessing for them to do so by applauding the decision on Twitter. The office is not open on weekends, but will resume issuing licenses on Monday.
Watch an interview with Theresa and Mercedes Santos-Volpe, plaintiffs in the suit that led to this ruling (via Windy City Times):