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Gay couples in the Chicago area can get married immediately, a federal judge ruled Friday, asking “why should we wait” on a law passed by the state legislature last year that mandated same-sex marriages begin in June.
In November, Illinois became the 16th state to allow gay marriage after the state legislature approved the legislation, which had failed earlier in the year. The law passed by one vote, meaning it didn't get the margin needed to go into effect before June 1.
The decision comes after the ACLU and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit last December asking a judge to allow same-sex couples, where at least one partner is facing a terminal illness, to get married. That was granted, and then the legal groups sought for all gay couples in Cook County the right to wed immediately.
“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,” U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman wrote in her decision. “To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: the time is always ripe to do right.”
Cook County Clerk David Orr kept Chicago’s downtown marriage bureau open an extra two hours Friday evening until 7 p.m. for couples who want to get a license. By then, 46 same-sex couples received marriage licenses, Orr's office said in a statement. The rest of the county’s offices will begin issuing licenses on Monday.
Marriage licenses are valid from the day after issuance, so couples can wed beginning Saturday.
Though the decision only applies to Cook County, John Knight, LGBT and AIDS project director for the ACLU of Illinois, said they were thrilled with the outcome.
“The U.S. Constitution guarantees these families the personal and emotional benefits as well as the critical legal protections of marriage now, and we are thankful that the court extended this dignity to couples immediately.”