Friday, February 21, 2014

Same sex couples can now obtain marriage licenses in Cook County

By Jamey Dunn

A federal judge ruled today that same sex couples can now wed in Cook County.

When lawmakers approved the bill allowing same sex marriage last year, there were not enough votes to put it into effect immediately under the state's constitutional requirements, so the law’s effective date is June 1. U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ruled in December that couples could wed if one of them had a life-threatening illness. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman took things a step further with her ruling allowing all couples to get married in Cook County starting today. Coleman said that “there is no reason to delay further” on allowing gay couples to marry.

Cook County Clerk David Orr announced that his office would begin issuing marriage licenses and that the downtown Bureau of Vital Records, in the lower level of the Daley Center, will remain open until 7 p.m. today. “I’m thrilled same-sex couples who want to get married won’t have to wait any longer,” Orr said in a written statement. “We are very excited to celebrate this historic milestone with every loving couple from today onward.” Licenses cost $60 and are valid  for 60 days from the day they are issued.

Orr warned that couples who had planned to have their wedding after the June effective date of the bill should not rush to get a license now because it would expire before their wedding. The fee will be waived for couples who wish to convert their civil unions into marriages. However, Orr said those couples would have to wait until June because the court ruling did not address couples who are already in civil unions. “Tens of thousands of Illinois couples have been waiting for a long time, some for decades, for their love, commitment and marriage to be recognized. This day — and the opportunity to finally get married — could not have come sooner,” Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of Equality Illinois, said in a written statement. “We congratulate all of the couples and their families, and the people of Illinois, on this significant day.”

Gov. Pat Quinn said in a written statement in response to the ruling: “Many couples in Illinois have waited long enough for marriage equality, and today’s ruling means thousands of Illinois couples no longer have to wait. Our law is a victory for equal rights in America and shows that citizens and lawmakers can come together on issues of fairness and human rights. ... Every county across the state should enjoy the same freedom without having to wait until June.”

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